Thank you, dear friends, for your practice. Thank you for co-creating together this beautiful field of mindful, loving energy that supports yourself and those around you and even the whole world. Every time we do this, we are supporting all beings. We are always guided. It is just a matter of being receptive. So our practice is not to beg God or a higher power or Buddha or whoever to please give us guidance. That is not our practice at all. In fact, we are always being given guidance constantly in so many different ways, but we are not necessarily always completely receptive to that guidance.
So our task is not to beg for guidance but rather to be receptive to the guidance already being given. So for some of us, we just simply need to allow ourselves to really listen to that guidance that we are always receiving. That is some of us. We just haven't been listening at all maybe for most of our lives. I doubt that is true for anyone in this room. If you are in this room, you have probably listened to guidance quite a few times in your life.
But some people are just very, very non-receptive up until this point, and so I encourage you to become receptive to your guidance. And then there are other people who do listen and are receptive to guidance, but it is still mixed in with other thoughts, ego thoughts and worries and fears. It is kind of like yeah, you listen to the guidance, but it is mixed in with all this other stuff: worry, fear, ego. And so it is hard to discern, well, which of these thoughts is inspired guidance and which is just my worries and fears or ego speaking, right? I think that is the majority of us. We all do hear guidance in some way, silently in our heart, but it is maybe sometimes difficult to distinguish and discern, which is why spiritual practice is so important.
And then of course, there is another group of us who perhaps we have learned over the years how to distinguish between true spiritual guidance that we are receiving and distinguish that from worry, fear, or ego. But our task may be that we are listening to the guidance, but we are not always necessarily obeying it, right? So some of us have learned how to distinguish true guidance from non-guidance, but we still have a hard time maybe following through with that guidance, you know? Even though we know this is what the guidance is being received, yet we still have a hard time believing and trusting and stepping out and taking the risk to follow that guidance. So you might see yourself somewhere along that spectrum.
And then of course, there may be the rare few of us who are always honoring our spiritual guidance, or at least most of the time. And that is great because you are truly on the way of the bodhisattva. You are on the way of awakening and helping all beings, because as you are becoming a person who is fully receptive to the guidance and fully following the guidance, then you become a very clear channel of blessing in the world for others. And that is actually what we want. We want to progress in our spiritual path, continually becoming more and more receptive.
And the unique thing about the truth of spiritual guidance is we do not have to make truth happen. We don't have to force wisdom to occur. We don't need to strive and struggle to make truth a reality because truth is the reality, and guidance is always available. So it is not a matter of trying to make something happen that doesn't exist. It is a matter of clearing ourselves enough to be receptive to what is already there.
So, there are spiritual practices that help us to be clear in our spirit: daily meditation, weekly community meditation, occasional meditation retreats, especially if it is at a monastery in nature. That is so amazing if you can do that for a weekend or a week. I know Vanessa has gone up to a nice monastery in Oklahoma sometimes just to get away and be with beautiful nuns and nature, right? And it is so wonderful to be with the nature from time to time. We really need that.
Practicing gratitude. This is very important, because when we train our minds to only think of what is bad, what is going wrong, what is negative, you cannot hear guidance because guidance doesn't speak with that negative tone. Guidance speaks to us in a positive tone, so if you are only constantly thinking and practicing ingratitude, you are blocking your ability to hear the voice of spirit, the voice of the angels, the voice of the guides and the bodhisattvas, who only speak in that positive tone of grateful energy.
And another spiritual practice is dharma reading, meaning reading spiritual books, especially if they contain writings from awakening beings or enlightened beings or at least close enough. You know, you can learn a lot from someone who is not completely enlightened, right? You know? Like your mother or your toddler or your teachers. You don't have to learn just from only enlightened beings.
In fact, many of us wouldn't even be able to even understand what a fully enlightened being has to say, you know? Because there is such a big kind of understanding gap, and so that is why there are angels, guides, and bodhisattvas. Buddhas are these fully enlightened brothers and sisters who just radiate their blessing, but most people don't know how to directly receive that, because it is just so far and above where they are at. And that is okay. That is why Buddhas, when they radiate their blessings, they actually radiate most of their blessings toward the bodhisattvas, beings who are not necessarily fully enlightened, but getting there, and they can relate better to those of us who are really not very enlightened at all, right?
So, our brothers and sisters who are kind of like Buddhas in training, they are the ones who actually help us the most, you see? Because we can relate with them, you know? Whereas sometimes we do not feel like we can fully relate to a fully enlightened Buddha, but we can relate to a bodhisattva. So, look around you for the bodhisattvas. And sometimes bodhisattvas come in many different disguises. I mean, even someone who is not really necessarily consciously on the bodhisattva path might have a role or function as a bodhisattva in your life, right? So just be aware of that. And of course in your spiritual reading, keep your mind filled with positive spiritual truths.
And also journal writing is another spiritual practice. If you do journal writing, which I highly recommend, it really does help unclutter your mind. So if you are a regular journal writer, you may find that your meditations are clearer because you are working through all of the cluttered stuff in your mind down on paper, and you can just let it go. And then when you meditate, it is easier. But be careful not to just only write about whatever you're randomly thinking. Also write things that you are grateful for. So you might want to have a column where you're just writing whatever and then another column where you are writing gratitudes, positive only. It is a way of training your mind to remember and think about and reflect on the positive, because we have spent so many years and decades training our mind otherwise, so we have to retrain our minds to think in terms of gratitude.
Maybe if I can remember, I will share an example from this past month with you on that, but right now, I am not thinking of it. Physical practices like mindful movement, yoga, qi gong, even chanting if it is very physical, prostrations and bowing, all of these things are also helpful because it helps engage the body and the body and the mind being one. Since we are beings of light who are expressing in physical bodies, we have to take care of these bodies, and we have to practice spirituality that also embraces the body. That is why we are here. We are learning how to do that. Now if that weren't on our spiritual curriculum, we would not be here in physical bodies. We would be in some other realm where we do not have to deal with physical bodies. But we are here with physical bodies, so we can't ignore that. We can't try to be spiritual and ignore our body. That is not balanced.
There is a reason why we are experiencing this curriculum at this time in our vast, infinite life. Here on the earth plane, one of our curriculum is to learn how to blend body and mind, to integrate them, to learn how to take infinite spirit and make it very tangible in the physical realm practically. So that is important. So I highly recommend if you are having a hard time with meditation, I guarantee if you practice yoga or qi gong or something like that, it will help your meditation because then you can practice with the body more, and then the body will be more supportive of your mind in your meditation.
Another spiritual practice is our diet, which of course is also a physical thing, taking care of our body. There are many different ways of trying to be healthy, and I'm not going to promote only one way, but right now, I personally am trying out the sugar-less raw vegan diet just for health reasons and healing purposes as I am recovering through cancer, and I'm finding it very, very helpful. But maybe for you just cutting back on meat or certain kinds of meat or eating more organic vegetables or eating less sugar, drinking more water. You will receive the guidance you need. Just listen. A book will come to you, a friend will tell you something. You will see something on TV. So just be receptive, because the angels do care about our bodies, and we do receive guidance on how to take care of our bodies. So let's be receptive to that guidance.
Another spiritual practice is blessing prayer. In Buddhism, we call it metta, or lovingkindness meditation, where we feel or say silently in our mind or visualize kindness, loving blessing to ourselves, to others, to all beings everywhere. And so in all traditions, we call this prayer. And it is not the kind of prayer that is about getting. It is about blessing.
So when you pray—and many times, if you are having a hard time in meditation, do not struggle through it. If after five minutes of just trying to be silent with the breath, your mind is still having a hard time with the meditation, that is okay. If you like, switch over to metta meditation or blessing prayer. Just start praying for yourself and for others and just bless them with words or lights or just a feeling of love. Then after few minutes, you might find that you are very peaceful. When you feel that peace, you can come back to just breathing in and breathing out, being in the silence.
And you know, the reason why blessing prayer is such an important spiritual practice is because it takes us out of our egocentric concerns. Many times we all practice some of these things with a subtle motivation just for ourselves. It is just about me. I want to be enlightened. I want to be wise. I want to be peaceful. I want to be awakened or whatever. But it is not about just you, because you are simply an expression of the one, the one reality, you see? We are all a part of it, and that includes all other beings. So everyone is important, not just you. And even though you may intellectually know that, you do not always feel that emotion because we are very, very self oriented. We have been training ourselves since we were babies how to be very self oriented, but now we can train ourselves differently to love and honor ourselves and all selves as one self, no separation. So blessing prayer helps to remember that we are connected and we are part of so much more than just this individual self.
And speaking of that inter-beingness, we can practice generosity and service. This is so very important. If you feel like you're stuck in your spiritual path, well, why don't you go and do some volunteer work? Why don't you go help serve at a soup kitchen, and why don't you make a large donation to a charity or to a sangha or to a monastery? Why don't you go over to one of the Thai Buddhist temples when they have their food offering ceremonies to the monks? Do that. This generates so much positive energy, and it helps you to come out of your black hole of self-orientation. So if you're ever depressed or sad or grieving, I highly recommend blessing prayer, generosity, and service practice.
And last but not least, chanting practice, which is one of my favorites. And there are many different ways you can do chanting practice, but I like to use the mantra Amitabha silently in all of my meditations. I may not always use Amitabha the whole time, but I usually start with that and end with it because Amitabha is a beautiful word that reminds me that I am not alone. There is lots of support and guidance. It is a way of saying I am receptive to that guidance and I want to become a clear channel of that blessing light to others. I want to be Amitabha. I want to receive the blessing of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, but I also want to be a blessing. I want to be a channel of blessing, so I am receiving and giving with every breath and with every chant. And there are other chants I also enjoy.
Every Buddhist tradition and every spiritual and religious tradition has something positive to offer. It is just a matter of you listening to your guidance on which one to choose and dedicate yourself to, because there is a variety. The universe offers it to us buffet style. But you don't have to always eat everything. You may not enjoy everything, but just try out different things and then choose the ones that really work for you. And then maybe a few years later you might try something different, because as you evolve and grow and change, your affinities may change, too. So you can find something positive to practice in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, etcetera. It is all available. The angels have been working over time for centuries to try to bring out the best possible treasures in our evolving traditions. But we do need to discern between what is not helpful anymore and a tradition and what is helpful.
I believe that the angels purposefully put both the positive and the not so positive things in every religion so that it would give us the opportunities to be mature adults in learning how to discern. If we had only one perfect religion, we would never grow. We would just be like babies, spiritual babies. We would never make up our own minds. We would never learn how to discern for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, what is helpful, what is not helpful. But because we are in a context of life and religion and the world where it is a mixture, then it does give us the opportunity to grow, to discern, to make decisions, and trial and error. That is okay. That is all part of life.
Again, we were not meant to be put into a perfect world here. This is not the purpose of earth life, being in a perfect world. No. It is a mixed world to help us grow spiritually, so don't focus so much on what is going bad or not so good in your religion or your life or your world for your country or your family or your culture. That is going down a path that leads to no usefulness at all. Rather, listen to the guidance. Listen to the angels and follow through every time you hear something that is toward the positive.
So, there's a lot more I wanted to share, and I will share that next week and the week after, but one thing I want to share is there is a day when I was having a really hard time and I was crying a few weeks ago. Someone said something that was really hurtful to me by e-mail, and I really, when I was reflecting, I would like why in the world would they send such an e-mail to me? Especially when I'm trying to heal, and they know that I'm going through this. But as I meditated on it, I realized it wasn't really about me at all.
This person was obviously suffering and going through something, and something got triggered and they felt like lashing out and saying something without thinking. So I have to remember not to take things personally because people are just working out their stuff, right? You just happen to be the person that happens to be they are while they are going through their stuff and projecting. So just be patient and just know that it is not about you. It is a lot more about them.
But the next day, as I was processing through and just breathing and just trying to come back to center, come back to focusing on the healing process, I noticed for the first time—I had been doing this every day for several weeks, driving on these certain streets to get from where I was staying to the clinic. I wrote this in an e-mail recently. I finally noticed—I got mindful enough—to notice what the street names were: Alma School Road, University Avenue, and Center Street. And I started to realize that this was a beautiful message from the universe, from the angels, from divine reality to me that in my path of getting to the clinic to get healing, Alma School. Alma in Spanish means soul, so I was reminded that this is a soul school. This is the school of my soul. That my life and even going through cancer and going through my healing process is part of my learning process and growing process. This is my spiritual school, my soul school.
So if I can see it that way rather than as a tragedy, it changes and shifts everything. It is just simply one way I am learning something, and believe me, I don't want to wish cancer on anyone, but it is definitely a learning process. It has made me grow so much, so much, and so for that I am grateful. But anyway, of course, University Avenue. You see, I realized that going through something like cancer, I am at the University level of my spiritual attainment, right? This is no longer an elementary school lesson. This is not just one plus one. This is calculus, spiritual calculus. It is not easy, but I am learning, and I am graduating. I am learning, and I'm graduating, and I'm so grateful for that.
And Center Street. In the midst of all the uncertainties of life and death and disease and health and even people sending very negative e-mails to me or whatever, I am learning how to stay centered in the midst of that, not being tossed to and fro by others' opinions or projections, not taking it personally, but staying in the center, the center of wisdom, the center of love, the center of my true self, the center of true spiritual guidance.
So I give thanks to the angels. I give thanks to the guides and bodhisattvas. I give thanks to all enlightened beings. I give thanks to all my brothers and sisters who are on the journey with me. I give thanks to the earth and the sunshine and the air and the trees and all the beings of this planet that make life possible.