Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Illuminating Experience



Recently, for the birthday of my wife, Carol, I arranged for her to fulfill a long-held desire—to participate in a Lantern Festival. If you are not familiar with a Lantern Festival, it’s when a gathering of people simultaneously release illuminated paper lanterns into the sky. The lanterns themselves can be quite large—as large as 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide. At the bottom of each lantern is a combustible material. And when the material is lit, it not only illuminates the lantern, but it also fills it with hot air. Eventually the lantern becomes light enough to rise up into the sky and float away—just like a hot air balloon. 

Some festivals are attended by dozens of people. Some are attended by hundreds. Our event was attended by thousands—more than 6,000, it is said. From pictures and videos I had seen, I knew that the releasing of the lanterns would be beautiful. But when the moment came to release our lanterns, I was surprised by the emotions that overcame both Carol and me. In fact, we were both touched to the point of tears.

So why did we experience such strong feelings? Well, there is something I didn’t mention about the preparation of the lanterns. Before the lanterns are inflated, each person writes upon it his or her dreams, goals, prayers, or affirmations. Some people express desires for a better house, a perfect job, or a loving relationship. Others seek abundance, happiness, or a healing. And some write down messages to loved ones who have left this plane of existence.

When each person lets go of his or her lantern, allowing it to rise high into the sky, it is a symbolic way of releasing his or her heartfelt desires and prayers into the care of a Higher Power. Imagine being surrounded by thousands of people of every imaginable walk of life, all joined by one common wish—the wish to live a more fulfilling and joyful life. And imagine being surrounded by thousands of people of every imaginable color and creed, all joined by one common faith—the faith that we live in an intelligent, creative, and loving Universe that knows what our dreams are, that hears our prayers, and responds to them.

It has been a long time since I have experienced such a profound sense of universal unity. And I suppose that is what brought tears to my eyes, and to Carol’s eyes, as well. It was truly a moving moment, which was made even more moving by the inspiring songs that were being played during the release, such as “Imagine” by John Lennon, and “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban.

If you would like to attend a Lantern Festival near you, I invite you to visit this website: www.thelanternfest.com. It will be an experience you will never forget—an experience that is as inspiring as it is illuminating.

Steven

© 2016 by Steven Lane Taylor
Steven Lane Taylor, LLC

Here’s a video of the moment Carol released her lantern:

video

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The 9th Benefit of Meditation



In Chapter 17 of my second book, “Further Down The Stream,” I list eight benefits of meditation. They are:
  1. You are healthier.
  2. You are more creative.
  3. You are more intuitive.
  4. You are more responsive.
  5. You are more present.
  6. You are more patient.
  7. You are more peaceful.
  8. You are more loving.
By no means are those the only benefits of meditation. There are more—many more. Those are just the ones that sprang to mind as I wrote that particular chapter. But as I was listening to a talk recently, I realized I missed a benefit—an important one . . . one I wish I had included in my book.

It is such an obvious benefit, I am surprised it didn’t occur to me at the time. What is it? You only have to look at the smiling face of the Dalai Lama—a consistent meditator—to see what it is:

        9. You are more joyful.

Meditation, as you know, helps quiet the mind, so you are more in touch with your Inner Divine Spirit—that Eternal Presence that exists at the core of your being. It follows that if you are more in touch with that Presence, you will exhibit more of its traits, such as creativity, wisdom, patience, peace, love, and . . . yes . . . joy.

The joy I am talking about is not the kind of joy that arises only when something outside of yourself is to your liking. It’s the kind of joy that comes from embracing all of life and living. It’s the joy that comes from appreciating life as a whole—with its ups and its downs, its peaceful parts and its turbulent parts.

Consider this: When people go to a water park, do they choose only to float along the lazy river? Or do they also choose to hurtle down the scary, but thrilling water slide? Don’t most people choose both? At the end of the day, isn’t it the overall combination of contrasting experiences that brought them joy?

Sure it is. And so it is with your Spirit. To your Spirit, life itself is one big amusement park, with a wide variety of contrasting rides and attractions that bring it joy. And when you connect to your Spirit through a consistent practice of meditation, you, too, can experience that all-inclusive kind of joy. You, too, can experience the unending joy of your Spirit. You, too, can experience the joy of just being alive and in the world. 

Steven

© 2016 by Steven Lane Taylor
www.rowrowrow.com
Steven Lane Taylor, LLC

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Lesson Learned The Easy Way



In my second book, “Further Down The Stream,” Chapter 38 is titled, “Grow With The Flow.” The idea in this chapter is that before you can successfully achieve a dream—or just live a happier, more fulfilling life—you may have to grow in some way. You may have to mature mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. You may have to heal something or learn something.

In order to bring that healing, learning, and maturing experience about, your inner Divine Spirit—in cooperation with the inner Divine Spirit of others—will orchestrate a challenge for you that will give you the perfect opportunity to heal, learn, and grow. Once the healing happens or the lesson is learned, you will no longer face that exact kind of challenge again.

What is truly fascinating about this process, however, is this: If you learn the lesson quickly enough, the challenge you are facing may dissolve before you actually have to go all the way through it. Here’s an example:

At one point in my former career as an advertising writer, I was up for a big promotion. The Creative Director of our group was leaving to head up a brand new group within our agency, and I was being considered to replace him. It would be an easy step up for me, because I had already been assisting him in leading our group for several years.

Well, I didn’t get the promotion. For reasons not relevant to this story, my company decided to hire a Creative Director from outside the company—someone with no experience in working at our agency, leading our group, or handling our particular accounts. I was disappointed, to say the least.

I thought I would get over my disappointment in time, but instead, my disappointment quickly turned into anger. Why? Because the new Creative Director—whom I will call Martin—never acknowledged my experience as an assistant director. He never asked for my opinion. He never sought my advice. And worse, I thought the decisions he was making (without my input) were hurting the quality of our work. In short, as far as I could see, he was a lousy manager.

Did I say I was angry? Correction. I was furious! And what did I do with all that anger? Nothing. Day after day after day, I just sat in it, stewing and brewing and letting my anger build. And then, something fortunate happened.  Before I exploded and did something I would regret, my former Creative Director called me and invited me to join his new group. Although he didn’t need an assistant to run this kind of group, he did need another writer to pair up with one of his art directors. I accepted his invitation immediately.

I was greatly relieved to escape what I believed to be an intolerable situation. But notice something: no healing or learning had yet taken place. And that’s where this story gets really interesting.

After happily working in my new group for about two years, one day I received some surprising news. Whether it was because of poor management, or it was due to other factors, my former group—the one led by Martin, the Creative Director I detested—had been disbanded. The company still felt that Martin was of value, though, so they didn’t let him go. Instead, they decided to move him into another group until they could find a more suitable position for him.

Well, guess whose group they decided to move him into? Of course! Ours! I was completely dumbfounded. From the standpoint of an organizational chart, moving Martin into our group didn’t make one bit of sense. Our group wasn’t big enough to be divided between two Creative Directors! Our current Creative Director didn’t even need an assistant! What we could use, however, was another art director. And since Martin began his career as an art director, that was the function he would be fulfilling.

So an office was prepared for Martin, and in advance of his arrival, he was assigned a project. The only thing he needed was a writer to work with. You see what’s coming next, right? You got it. The only logical choice of a writer to pair up with Martin was . . . me!

No! How could this be? I escaped that man years ago! Why would we have to work together again? Why? Why? Hmmm . . . why, indeed? Could it be there was a lesson I needed to learn?

Well, guess what? With my willingness to see this situation as a possible learning lesson, I had an immediate epiphany. Yes, it was true that Martin never asked for my assistance when he took the job I thought was going to be mine. But it was also true that I never offered him any help! The real truth of the matter was that I resented Martin for “taking my job,” and I had no intention of helping him be successful.

But did he actually “take my job?” Of course not. I just didn’t get the job, and he did. And there were reasons for that. In that moment of clarity, I realized what would have been the right thing to do back then. I should have simply gone into Martin’s office and said, “Let me know if you need any help. And if there is anything you need to know about our clients, or the history of our group and our work, I will be happy to fill you in.”

Now—miraculously—I had a second chance to do the right thing. And I knew just what that would be. I would tell Martin that I really looked forward to working with him on our upcoming project. And you know what? That sentiment was completely sincere. You see, I knew that before he moved into management, Martin was an excellent art director. And I truly believed that we could create a wonderful advertising campaign together.

Having had my epiphany on a Friday, I decided to put my sentiment in a handwritten note, and leave it on Martin’s desk for him to find on Monday—the day he was slated to start working in our group. I don’t know whether Martin ever got that note or not. Because he didn’t come in on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or ever. As it turned out, the company did find a better fit for Martin, and over the weekend they moved him into a completely different area of our agency.

As shocked as I was when I heard Martin was coming into our group, I was equally shocked to hear that he been moved somewhere else before he even got started. Wow! I couldn’t help but feel this whole scenario was divinely orchestrated for my benefit. And I did, indeed, benefit. By finally getting honest with myself, I was able to let go of my unfounded resentment toward Martin, and relieve myself of an emotional burden I had been carrying around for years.

A lesson had been learned. A healing had happened. And then—instantly—the very challenge that set the stage for that maturing experience simply disappeared. That’s not to say that every challenge I have faced in life has dissolved in a heartbeat. Plenty of challenges have lasted a lot longer than they probably had to, due to my resistance to them. But to this day, I remain extremely grateful that in this particular instance—and a few others like it—I was able to learn my lesson . . . the easy way.

Steven

© 2016 by Steven Lane Taylor
Steven Lane Taylor, LLC

Saturday, March 19, 2016

About That Still, Small Voice



In Chapter 4 of my second book, Further Down The Stream, I list many of the ways we receive divine guidance from our inner Divine Spirit (the kind of guidance we commonly call our intuition). Included are:
  • A thought that suddenly pops into your head
  • A still, small voice you seem to “hear” from within
  • An image or a vision that appears in your mind
  • A particularly vivid dream you have
  • A physical sensation that gets your attention
  • A simple feeling of peace or “rightness”
  • A “Knowing”—that is, an inexplicable and unshifting sense of surety
Except for an image or vision that appears in your mind, I have experienced all of the above at one time or another. My most common experience is a feeling of “rightness” about a particular choice I am considering. But I have also had vivid dreams that have helped me heal some troubling situations. I have experienced physical sensations that have alerted me to something I needed to pay attention to. And I have had thoughts pop into my mind that proved to be miraculously beneficial. I still remember the time I suddenly thought, “I should look into that book marketing opportunity I heard about 6 months ago.” That particular thought was not connected to anything I was contemplating at the time. It just popped into my mind out of the blue. But guess what? When I heeded that thought and checked on the marketing opportunity, I discovered I had called on the very last day the offer was being made!

There is one form of divine communication, however, I have only experienced twice—both within a single 24-hour period. I am referring to hearing a “still, small voice.” Although some people claim they have heard—with their ears—an actual voice coming from outside of themselves, most people—myself included—experience the still, small voice as something that arises from within. They can’t say they actually “heard” something, but what they experienced was more than just a mental thought.

If you are wondering what distinguishes a still, small voice from a thought, it is generally this: The message you “hear” is extraordinarily clear. It is very concise. And it seems to be delivered to your mind rather than originating from your mind. For example, a thought that arises in your mind might be something like, “Hey, I haven’t heard from Sally in a while. Maybe I should call her.” A still, small voice would simply say, “Call Sally. Now.”

So what was my experience with a still, small voice? To be perfectly honest, it was a little embarrassing . . . but also kind of funny:

Many, many years ago—when I was in my thirties—I had a very big decision to make. It was such a big decision, I needed to make it very carefully and prayerfully. I had that decision on my mind when I decided to spend a week or so vacationing in Arizona.

My first stop was the city of Tucson. Tucson sits at the base of Mt. Lemmon, and I decided I would drive up to the top of that mountain and spend some time in prayer and meditation about the challenging choice I was facing.  So that’s exactly what I did. I drove to the top of Mt. Lemmon, found a big boulder, sat on it, meditated for a bit, and then asked my inner Divine Spirit, “Spirit . . . what should I do?”

I was surprised when I got an immediate response. It was clear. It was concise. And the message seemed to be delivered to my mind, rather than originating from my mind. It was a still, small voice. And it said, “Whatever you think is best for your spiritual growth.”

Whatever I think is best for my spiritual growth? I didn’t care for that answer. I didn’t know what was best for my spiritual growth, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to discern that. As I drove back down the mountain I convinced myself that the “voice” I heard must not have been the voice of my Spirit at all. It must have been something else.

I knew my next stop was Sedona, Arizona, so I decided I would ask the question again when I got there. After all, Sedona is known for it’s mystical “vortexes,” and I would probably have a stronger connection to my inner Divine Spirit if I asked the question there.

So that’s what I did. I drove to Sedona, went to one of the vortex sites, sat down, meditated a bit, and then asked the question again. “Spirit . . . what should I do?”

Once again I got an immediate response. It was clear. It was concise. And the message seemed to be delivered to my mind, rather than originating from my mind. It was that still, small voice again. Only this time, it said, “I already told you.” Oops! I felt a little embarrassed. I guess I should have accepted the first answer I received! 

Well, even though it required more contemplation and meditation on my part, I was—in the end—able to arrive at a decision I was comfortable with. And later, I realized why my Sprit answered me the way it did. It was simply because it didn’t make any difference what choice I made! No matter what path I chose, if I thought it was best for my spiritual growth, my inner Divine Spirit would help me benefit from the experience. 

Friends, have you had a still, small voice experience? Have you had beneficial thoughts pop into your mind, or experienced helpful dreams? No matter what form your divine guidance may take, here’s to being open and receptive to it . . . the first time!

Steven

© 2016 by Steven Lane Taylor
Steven Lane Taylor, LLC