Monday, December 18, 2017

Perfection is not Required

One morning I listened to a YouTube on Shri Ramana Maharishi. Ramana was not only a wise spiritual advisor; he was a lover of animals. He had a way with animals that is compared to that of Saint Francis. His cow, Laxshmi, was given an afterlife sendoff ceremony normally reserved for humans. The master understood snakes, monkeys, birds, and other animals. Animals not only flocked to him, they obeyed him. The Ramana video ended by talking about his transition. When I looked at the date, I saw his transition date or mahasamadhi day was that very day. I felt a chill. Ramana is one of my favorite holy people.

I was fortunate to visit his ashram in southern India a few years ago. The town was filled with spiritual seekers of all sorts, ashrams, and markets.

He lived in one village, Tiruvannamalai, his entire adult life. I suspect he never drove a car, yet his influence was felt all over the world. When my mind criticizes my uneasiness when driving, I think, "Ramana was a great man and he didn't drive anywhere." I then congratulate myself for driving at all. I avoid driving into Houston and would never venture out during the commuter hours. When the inner critic chides me for not traveling as much as I might like, I think, "Ramana stayed in one town through his entire adult life and he was one of the greatest men who ever lived. Not only was he self-realized, he was wise and capable."

Sometimes we play small and don't realize our potential, but frequently, we expect too much. We demand perfection, consummate wisdom, an ageless body, and a 24-hour positive attitude. It is refreshing to know that most advanced masters can’t live up to the standards of our modern world or the standards we impose on ourselves.

Ramana's teachings were practical and easy to understand. Three things can reveal the truth of who we are.
  • The first is meditation. It calms the mind and uncovers what lies beneath our words, beliefs, and emotions.
  • Next is the breath. Learning to master the breath, or live with breath awareness, brings us to deep stillness as well.
  • Finally, his favorite was self-inquiry. It is known in the east as vichara. The self-inquiry refers to the seminal question, "Who am I?" It is not a question to be answered in words. It is answered in the heart, when we stop the mind and feel or experience who we are. Ramana said that vichara created the fastest path to realization.
The above are my three favorite practices, although I do mantra as well. My practices are not set in stone. They vary. I lose track of time and it gets too late to do my spiritual and physical exercises. I get tired of some of the exercises sometimes and want a change. While some people can arrange their lives to exercise, meditate, and eat well every day, it may not be practical for everyone in today's modern life.

We are stretched to do more things and be more things than ever before. While the above practices are powerful, not everything is for everybody. Each has a path that calls to them, and that path can be different for each person. We do not need to live under the tyranny of any belief system, any religion, or other set of standards. Our lives are our lives. We answer to no one. The Universe is always saying, "Decide and I will back you up." We don’t have to do anything to be loved and accepted. We already are unconditionally loved and accepted. I don't do my practices to be good or to gain favors with GUS (God/Universe/Spirit). I do them because I feel better. But it is important not to become the prisoner to perfection. I can deviate from the norm and still have a healthy, happy, life.

When we accept ourselves as we are, help ourselves when we can, and give ourselves a break, we always find that life can be EZier and EZier.
Anne #Ramana #EZosophy #Sspiritual #annesermons gillis

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Our culture sanctions the intellect. We value logic and control as if they were the gods of interaction. We like to know what's going on and how to fix it, but some things cannot be fixed using the logical approach. They need the intuitive approach, along with massive doses of compassion and inner reflection.

Recently, While at the Theosophical Society National Convention I reveled in several meaty conversations. Here's the scene. I'm seated between two men at dinner. One is an author and healer and the other an older volunteer. Man number one: "I don't understand women. I can't find a good relationship." I shared my thoughts and asked man number two to share his thoughts. He was quiet and I expected him to deflect the question, but he rose like a master and spoke softly but powerfully, "I make the things that are important to my wife and son important to me. I listen to them and don't try to talk them out of what they are seeing or saying." Man number one continued, "But I can only find shallow women. They like to shop and only want to eat out and go to the movies." This time I stayed quiet and looked at the master: "That's because they don't know any other way. Show them another way. Take them to walk in the park. Go to an art opening or to a museum. Attend a concert or walk in the historic district of town. Go for a ride and take pictures of wildflowers." Man number one seemed reflective and had an "aha" expression on his face. Man number two took the conversation from the perspective of "What can people do for me?" to "How can I serve others and create a situation that benefits everyone?"

We don't serve others to the exclusion of getting our needs met; we learn to come from a space of giving to others, that fills us up, rather than giving from a place that depletes us. I read a Quora inquiry that asked the question. "I'm in a new relationship with a man who was recently jailed. How long should I wait for him?" I shook my head and chuckled. The relationship suggestions I give about being of service to do not preclude using common sense. I would suggest the woman not wait at all.

All problems do not have the same solutions, so be careful in taking relationship advice. There is no absolute solution, and that's why our intuition, rather than our intellect, is usually most important in dealing with relationships. I say usually because the woman who considers waiting for a man in prison, when he's not her husband or son, needs to use logic and intellect. She needs to make a smart move and not place herself in harm's way. The person who desires more closeness and happiness in a relationship needs an inner approach, the heart tools, to bring about harmony and intimacy in a relationship.

Relationship Awareness Process

The following suggestions invite us to use our intuition to align with friends and loved ones.
  • Do this process at a time you will not be disturbed. Don't try to squeeze this into a busy schedule. It is important you are relaxed and not on a strict schedule. Get paper and pen to take notes. Then sit in a comfortable, private place.
  • Light a candle and/or put on some soothing music. If you have a picture of your friend,  relative, or partner, place it beside your candle. This is your relationship altar. You may want to put a peace symbol on it or the picture or image of a spiritual figure. Be creative. You can leave this up or wrap it in a cloth and put it away for use in the future.
  • Go to your quiet space with a sense of relaxation. Watch your breath, let go of tight muscles, and clear your mind of worries or expectations. Close your eyes.
  • Ask your Higher Power, Angels, Guides, spiritual Master, or Self:
    "What can I do to make our relationship better?"
    "How can I serve this person?"
    "What do I do that harms this person? What bad thoughts do I hold?
    Do I hold them to a standard of perfectionism?"
    Write down any thoughts you might have. (And with eyes open, of course!)
  • Next, bring up an image of your loved one. Ask him or her:
    "How can I best serve you?"
    "How can I honor you?"
    "What do you need from me?"
    "What do I do to you that is harmful?"
    "Am I sarcastic or harsh? If so, how?"
    "How can I show you more compassion?"
    "Do I need to give you more support or do I need to encourage you to stand on your own two feet?"
    "Am I too much in your business or am I too detached?"
  • Again, write down the answers.
This process allows us to tap into our intuition and to our connection with others. We can use it often, in times of trouble, or any time, to improve our relationships and to develop empathy and compassion.

We often ask what we need to be doing on this planet. How can I be of service? How can I help others? The above process provides a framework for doing the deep work. Sometimes we do others' service when we uncover the disservice we do them through our actions and expectations. We become their humble servant when we have the courage to make changes in the habitual ways we relate to others. We find that humility, compassion, and caring are not weaknesses; they are the foundations of strength.

Relationships deliver endless opportunities for service and growth. We can disengage from others and keep our hearts behind a wall, or we can go inside and free ourselves and others from the loneliness stimulated by the egoic mind. Relationships can serve as a stepping stone to higher states of well-being, but we must go on the daring adventure of opening our hearts and serving others in order to step out on the path. Let's step more fully into our relationships and enjoy them as the privileges they are, because when we do, we find that life becomes EZier and EZier.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Have a Great Relationship

Have you experienced disappointment in any of your relationships? I certainly have, and on more than one occasion. Given the demands we place on relationships, pain and suffering are inevitable. We get into relationships to gain something or to benefit, only to find that relationships can't offer a permanent fix to our hungry souls.
Frequently, there's an inner desperation, one that we don't know we have, that slithers its way into our primary love relationship. We go into a relationship during our finest hour, only to lose our brilliance once the clock strikes 12. We put on a show for about six weeks, then revert to our self-centered, got-to-get-more of something mode, must have a better version of something, or a different version of something from this relationship. We try to get our partner to change, to fit our model of how things should be, and if the relationship endures, we go to work on it. We accentuate the pain as the pleasure recedes beyond our reach.

Relationships do not work when they are applied as a bandage to life. They can only add richness when we are already full. Relationships  are the dessert of life; they can never be the main course.

How do relationships get this way? What makes relationship failure a pandemic disease? Hold on to your ego; the following might be distressful. We suffer because we foster multiple relationship illusions. We take the Daffy Duck approach with our significant others. Remember Daffy? He was one of the first animated characters that showed up and acted like a screwball! When we believe the following ideas, we get screwball results:
  • We must belong to be happy.
  • We must have a mate to be a success as a person.
  • Getting married brings safety and a sense of belonging.
  • Someone must love us or we can't be happy.
  • We cannot be happy without a significant other.
  • Single people are sad and to be pitied.
  • People will stay, and if they don't, we have the right to feel abandoned. (Maybe they will stay, but not all the time. They divorce us, die, and emotionally check out.)
  • The romance lasts forever. The chills and thrills are required, and if they are gone, something is wrong.
We experience a diminished interest in our relationship when we see our beloved cannot fill enough soul holes. Once we see the illusion, that relationships will not fulfill our fantasies on a permanent basis, we try to find another way to realize our illusions. Maybe we go on to the next partner. We might have an affair. We may emotionally block out our partner and pursue other means of fulfillment, such as work or a hobby.

Hopefully at some point we figure it out. We've been looking for love in all the wrong places. We have been looking at love in false concepts and beliefs. We place our salvation (happiness) in the hands of another person. This is the worst place to put it. Our happiness and well-being belong to us, not to others.

When we get to the end of the relationship road, it's time to go where fulfillment lies, and, if we are sensible, we will start that inner journey. It seems simple, but few people are willing to give up delusional thinking. The mind believes that without this self-defining thinking, it (the mind) would be left in an endless void. The mind cannot deal with the angst of losing its limiting concepts. These limiting concepts define our minds and what we believe to be our selves.

When wisdom dawns, we find that the mind exists only as the concepts it holds. The mind as we know it consists of limited viewpoints, memories, and future projects. Emotions work symbiotically with mind to create the entity we call ourselves. We further limit this self-constructed entity by believing that it is a body. Even though bodies and complex belief systems give us a point of reference for reality, they are merely a limited viewpoint. The less we identify with the mind and body, as who we are, the freer we become and the more we experience reality as it is. The experience of reality is different than the second-hand version we define and refine to fit our beliefs.

There's an old tale whose point illustrates our unwillingness to look inside for our divinity. We prefer our souped up version of reality. Our version of life is exciting and full of purpose, even if the purpose is only to get out of the dramatic situations we create! What we fail to see is that our divinity is our identity, and until we know this and live from our divinity, our relationships are doomed.

So rather than studying relationship techniques and trying to get our significant others to give us what we need, we would be better served to spend our time practicing the Presence. Home work is the practice that teaches school children certain skills. We take time to practice the guitar. People take golf lessons and play round after round of golf. The more practice one gets, the more proficient s/he becomes at golf. Do we practice the presence of our divinity? And if not, why not?

Don't answer that last question. Looking at the problem can release us, but too often it sends the mind spinning and lands it in another useless intellectual pursuit. It's simple. Practice going to the center of who you are as frequently as you think of it and put as much silence in your mind as you can. This practice takes on a life of its on, and as our awareness expands into the Stillness, we lose our need for external fixes. The sweetness of the inner world calls us to this Radical Presence, and when it does, our relationships become the dessert of our lives. We get to enjoy them rather than place demands on them. We get to have fun in our relationships rather than having to control them. We get to experience freedom rather than the feeling of being trapped. We get to feel okay, whether we are with our significant other or not. When we practice the Presence, we discover our identity as divinity, and the need to strive disappears.

Practicing the Presence is the easiest way to bypass the multiple avenues of relationship distress and to come into the joy of being. Good relationships are the byproduct of our inner divinity and inner joy; they are not our reason to live nor the cause of our happiness.

Let's give up our need to find a partner, fix a partner, or get rid of a partner. None of these actions will deliver what we need. But practicing the Presence will deliver the fulfillment we seek. Try it and you will find that your life becomes EZier and EZier.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Creative Solutions

I used to have an office in a strip shopping center. The outside was barren, so I placed a flower-filled whiskey barrel by the front door. It welcomed clients and softened the look of the otherwise stark entrance.

Unfortunately, the plants vanished. I would replant, but after a few days, they would be gone. The plant thief took them one by one, as if by disappearing slowly, I wouldn’t notice. The plants were perfect for the front door, but I was unwilling to keep replacing the plants. How could I discourage the plant bandit?

My intuition buzzed with the perfect answer. I printed out a small note and placed it prominently in the glass window behind the planter. The note read, “These are planted in honor of my beloved Aunt Lima, who passed away recently.” It worked. There were never any more plants taken. I started having fun and honored my friends’ and clients’ deceased relatives. “These plants are planted to honor the beloved mother of Jane Stiles.” I changed the dedication sign every few weeks and my friends and clients felt comforted as they passed by the planter. I used real names for the deceased and loved ones. It felt right to be straight and to make this more than a ploy to fool the plant snatcher. The process eventually moved from being a solution to a problem, to a sacred act of honoring others.

My office was in an isolated area, so I tried to leave my office at night with my last client. One evening, when I had stayed late to do paperwork, there were several teenagers hanging around the front exit. None of them looked like the girl next door. They numbered six, so I waited for them to leave, but the night wore on, they remained near the door, and I was ready to go home. My intuition hummed. When I exited, I greeted them, “I am so glad you are here. It is scary to come outside alone at night. Will you watch and make sure I get to my car safely.” The Hell’s Angel’s lookalikes smiled and collectively responded, “Yes ma’am. We will take care of you.” I felt safe and protected as I slid into my car. I waved goodbye to my newfound heroes.

Once again my intuition served me. I’m not sure if I was in danger or not--maybe the kids were safe, but I didn’t feel safe, and the creative solution released me from my bondage. In another similar incident, my daughter and I delivered a carload of Christmas presents to the projects. We drove into the impoverished area in my late model El Dorado Cadillac, which was fashionable at the time, and parked in front of Miss Betty’s apartment building. I felt like a target; we didn’t fit in. What had I been thinking, going alone with my young daughter? There was what looked to be a gang at the end of the street, and again my intuition provided a quick reaction. I got out of my car and asked if the boys knew Miss Betty Smith. One of the boys responded affirmatively and I asked if he knew where she lived. He did. I told the boys I had a car full of presents for Miss Smith and said, “This a too much stuff for us to take alone. Will you please help us deliver these presents to Miss Betty?” So the Crips*, my daughter, and I headed to Miss Betty’s place and made her day. Again a wonderful solution.

My daughter once wrote a paper on incidents that formed her values. She included that day as a turning point. Her recollection was not about feeling afraid; she was touched first-hand by the kind of poverty she witnessed. That day she decided she would always help when she could, and she did. I watched her grow into a compassionate woman who spent years in a profession helping underprivileged populations.

There are times when we are faced with real and imagined danger. Rather than freak out or being frightened, looking for creative solutions can rectify an otherwise unpleasant situation or even help us avoid a potentially dangerous one. We won’t always be able to come out of every situation unscathed, but when we live with an expectancy that there is always a better, easier, and safer way to confront any situation, we are less apt to trip ourselves up when faced with a potentially bad one. It only takes a few seconds to check in with our intuition, and I’ve found that when I do, it always makes my life EZier and EZier. I hope you are never faced with these kinds of choices, but I’m sure if you are, you will find that holding back the fear and making friends of your supposed enemies will make your life EZier and EZier too.