Without taking the time to think about all that’s happened in 2016, our shortcomings and accomplishments, we fail to integrate what new knowledge we’ve gained.
There have been ups. There have been downs. There will continue to be many more before midnight strikes at the end of December and we hit the collective reset button–pretending that we can move on unaffected by the events of the previous year.
That’s where we all go wrong, isn’t it? Indeed, we need to fight the urge to move on, and start critically examining how our history continues to live through us in the present moment so we can begin to make better choices moving forward.
Here are the 10 biggest life lessons learned in 2016.
1. Spending so much of our lives on our phones is decreasing our ability to be engaged in the present moment.
Why do you think mindfulness meditation and yoga are both billion dollar industries? People are feeling the effects of increased time spent in the digital world.
2. Virtual and augmented reality will continue changing the way we interact with the world.
One reason Pokemon Go was such a hit was because it satisfied our need to be digitally connected and engaged with the real world. Between that and Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, and Playstation VR–new worlds are just a headset away.
3. People crave authenticity–so you need to start taking self-development seriously.
The catalyst of authenticity is self development, so you need to start investing in your personal growth.
4. Digital assistants and artificial intelligence are (finally) becoming more helpful.
Between Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, our digital assistants are getting better at recognising our voices and providing helpful information–although they are still far from perfect.
5. Attention spans are increasingly short–which means you have to provide value if you want engagement.
Short videos are in. Consumers of digital content want valuable take-away messages without the fluff–so stop sugar coating content and start delivering the goods.
6. Many of us live in isolated bubbles and are surrounded by like-minded people.
Another lesson from the election is that most of us are entrenched within a digital and geographic comfort zone.
7. History repeats itself–so you need to start looking at the larger picture.
Many of the difficult and visible social issues of 2016, along with the rhetoric used to win the presidential election, are familiar to those with historical knowledge.
8. Flexibility and openness are now required for productivity and personal well being.
Remember to pause and breathe.
9. The difference between “real” and “fake” news is becoming increasingly blurry and you need to know the difference.
You need to develop critical thinking skills and apply them to everything you read.
10. Going viral on social media is more valuable than television ads and can win the presidential election.
The old school mentality of paying for cable advertising may not be as effective as free coverage on social media–especially when that content is viral.
Whether you’re a content blogger or a presidential candidate, the vast reach of social media will transform the way you approach spreading your message.
The article was originally posted on http://www.inc.com/
Sadhguru looks at the importance of the process of karma yoga, its role on the spiritual path, and how one can go about using action as a means to spiritual growth.
Question: What is the role of karma yoga in sadhana?
Sadhguru: It is not needed really. Yoga does not need karma. Yoga is to go beyond karma. Why karma yoga has been brought in is to bring about balance in a person. Whatever we call as our awareness, our love, our experience or our glimpses of our reality, if it has to be sustained, the path of non-doing is a very wonderful path, but it is very slippery. Extremely slippery. It is the simplest and the most difficult. It is not difficult but it is not at all easy, because it is simple – right now, here and now. But that here and now – how to get it? Whatever you do, it is not in your hands. It is never going to be in your hands. But your hands need something right now, you need to hold something. That is why the crutch of karma yoga.
Without the crutch, most people will not be able to walk. There are a few beings who can walk without the crutch from the first moment. They are very rare beings. Everyone else needs the crutch to manage your awareness. Without this, most people are incapable of remaining aware. So karma yoga is brought into your life to properly temper sadhana with the right kind of action.
Activity – liberating or entangling
Karma yoga has unfortunately been described as service, but it is not so. It is a way of undoing the impressions that you have gathered. If you can joyfully involve yourself in any activity, that is karma yoga. If you do it with great effort, only karma will come, noyoga will happen!
Generally it is through various activities that you perform that you get entangled and enmeshed with life. But if the activity becomes a process of liberation instead of entanglement, it is karma yoga. Whether it is work or walking on the street or talking to someone, the nature of the activity is not important. When you do something only because it is needed, where it does not mean anything to you but you are capable of involving yourself as if that is your life, it transforms you and action becomes liberating.
When we were building the Dhyanalinga, people thought, “This is it! He wants this to happen. Let us do it! Once this is done, we can relax.” They worked like their life depended on it. They went from house to house, raising funds and bringing the necessary support and made it happen. When it was done, before they said “Ooff…” I announced ten different projects. I will always keep it on because people need that kind of action. They need to do what is needed without worrying about their fulfillment and their likes and dislikes. Anyway we are doing something for our growth, so let us do something that is useful to everyone. Let us do sensible action.
There have been many masters who created action like this. When Gurdjieff started his centers in Europe, the European elite went to him. In the morning he would give them a shovel and a pickaxe and tell them, “Dig trenches.” In the hot sun, they stood and dug and dug. These were not people who are used to labor of any kind. By the time they had worked a few hours, they had blisters all over. He stood there and drove them on. By late evening, they were hungry but they worked and worked, digging trenches. Then he would look at the watch, “Okay, it is seven o‘clock. Looks like dinner time. All of you can close the trenches again before we go for dinner.” A whole day’s work!
Doing something that does not mean anything to you with total involvement is what breaks the karmic structure. Karma means action. If action has to become yoga, action should be liberating. If your activity has become a process of binding yourself, it is karma. So the question is not about how much activity you do. How you are performing the activity is what makes the difference. If you are crawling through your work, that is karma. If you are dancing through your work, that is karma yoga.
A book titled “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe“, published in the USA, has stirred up the Internet because of the notion that life does not end when the body dies and can last forever. The author of this publication, scientist Robert Lanza, has no doubts that this may be possible.
Beyond time and space
Lanza is an expert in regenerative medicine and scientific director at Advanced Cell Technology Company. While he is known for his extensive research on stem cells, he was also famous for several successful experiments on cloning endangered animal species.
The theory implies that death simply does not exist. It is an illusion which arises in the minds of people. It exists because people identify themselves with their body. They believe that the body is going to perish, sooner or later, thinking that their consciousness will disappear too. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. That fits well with the basic postulates of quantum mechanics, according to which a certain particle can be present anywhere and an event can happen in several, sometimes countless, ways.
Lanza believes that multiple universes can exist simultaneously. These universes contain multiple ways for possible scenarios to occur. In one universe, the body can be dead. And in another it continues to exist, absorbing consciousness which migrated to this universe.
This means that a dead person, while traveling through the ‘tunnel’, ends up in a similar worldhe or she once inhabited, but this time alive. And so on, infinitely.
This hope-instilling but extremely controversial theory by Lanza has many unwitting supporters – not just ‘mere mortals’ who want to live forever, but also some well-known scientists. These are physicists and astrophysicists who tend to agree with the existence of parallel worlds and who suggest the possibility of multiple universes, known as the Multiverse theory.
Science fiction writer H.G. Wells was the first to come up with this concept, which was proposed in his story “The Door in the Wall” in 1895. 62 years after it was published, the idea was developed byHugh Everett in his graduate thesis at the Princeton University. It basically states that at any given moment the universe divides into countless similar instances. And the next moment, these “newborn” universes split in a similar way. You may be present in some of these worlds – you may be reading this article in one universe or watching TV in another.
The triggering factor for these multiplying worlds is our actions, explained Everett. When we make certain choices, one universe instantly splits into two different versions of outcomes.
In the 1980s, Andrei Linde, scientist from the Lebedev Physical Institute in Russia developed the theory of multiple universes. He is now a professor at Stanford University.
Linde explained: “Space consists of many inflating spheres, which give rise to similar spheres, and those, in turn, produce spheres in even greater numbers, and so on to infinity. In the universe, they are spaced apart. They are not aware of each other’s existence. But they represent parts of the same physical universe.”
The fact that our universe is not alone is supported by data received from the Planck space telescope. Using the data, scientists created the most accurate map of the microwave background, the so-called cosmic microwave background radiation, which has remained since the inception of our universe. They also found that the universe has a lot of anomalies represented by black holes and extensive gaps.
Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton from the North Carolina University argues that the anomalies of the microwave background exist due to the fact that our universe is influenced by other universes existing nearby. And holes and gaps are a direct result of attacks from neighboring universes.
So, there is abundance of places or other universes where our soul could migrate after death, according to the theory of neo-biocentrism. But does the soul exist?
Professor Stuart Hameroff from the University of Arizona has no doubts about the existence of eternal soul. Last year, he announced that he has found evidence that consciousness does not perish after death.
According to Hameroff, the human brain is the perfect quantum computer, and the soul, or consciousness, is simply information stored at the quantum level.It can be transferred, following the death of the body; quantum information carried by consciousness merges with our universe and exists infinitely. In his turn, Lanza proves that the soul migrates to another universe. That is the main difference his theory has from the similar ones.
Sir Roger Penrose, a well-known British physicist and expert in mathematics from Oxford,supports this theory and claims to have found traces of contact with other universes. Together, the scientists are developing a quantum theory to explain the phenomenon of consciousness.They believe that they have found carriers of consciousness, the elements that accumulate information during life and “drain” consciousness somewhere else after death. These elements are located inside protein-based microtubules (neuronal microtubules), which previously have been attributed a simple role of reinforcement and transport channeling inside a living cell. Based on their structure, microtubules are best suited to function as carriers of quantum properties inside the brain. That is mainly because they are able to retain quantum states for a long time, meaning they can function as elements of a quantum computer.
Source: The Learning Mind
Muhammad Ali is one of my modern heroes and I am saddened to hear of his passing away. He is considered one of the greatest athletes to ever live by many-and in my opinion he was. When a great mind and personality passes away, there is usually sadness and sorrow. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the lessons I learned as I grow into the man I want to be. Coincidently, Muhammad Ali and I share the same birthday, January 17, so in tribute; here are 17 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali.
- Stick to your values: Muhammad Ali embodied true masculine energy by sticking to hi mission and purpose no matter what the consequences were. When he declined induction to the army to fight in the Vietnam he was banned from the sport of boxing. He lost some of the most important prime years (age 25-29) of his life away from the boxing ring. He did so believing in his core values and what he stood for as a man. In hindsight, everyone would agree that Muhammad Ali was right in his decision. Let your value system run your decision-making. Focus on the process of listening to your core and let the results be as it may. At the end of the day, by following your values, you can ensure no regrets.
- Be yourself : “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want to be.” You do not need validation from others. Be yourself. Feel comfortable under your skin and improve yourself. No need to apologize if you are a person of character. Be yourself and then you’ll attract the right people in your life.
- Have a purpose: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them–a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster. They have to have the skill and the will, but the will must be stronger than the skill.” It is not what you do that makes you a champion, it is why you do it and how you do it. Muhammad Ali was a champion because his big goal was to help others. Therefore, he was the same person (of principle) in and outside the ring.
- Be great: “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.”To be great you must know you are great. You must realize that your potential to be great exists within you and it’s just a matter of showing it. No one can see the potential that you have except you. Execute! You do not need validation from others.
- Focus on the positive: After getting Parkinson disease, he kept a positive attitude. “Parkinson’s is my toughest fight. No, it doesn’t hurt. It’s hard to explain. I’m being tested to see if I’ll keep praying, to see if I’ll keep my faith. All great people are tested by God.” Enough said! What would you do if you are faced with a calamity? How would your attitude change? For every hardship and failure there are opportunities that formulate. Can you see them? Can you capture the opportunities?
- Get back up when you fall down: “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” If you fall, pick yourself back up. Let the opportunity of falling down be a lesson on how to get back up. Learn from your failures in order to grow as a person of character.
- No pain no gain: “I hated every minute of training, but I said don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Who ever said training was fun. Stick to the habits of practicing on your craft/skill and you will reap the rewards over time. Focus on one rep, one jump, one movement at a time.
- Believe in yourself: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” If you don’t believe in your gift and your skills that you want to give to the world, then the world won’t believe in you. Show and tell. Don’t fool yourself. Listen to the voice in your head telling you of your potential to be great. Just follow it.
- Laugh and make others laugh: “Comedy is a funny way of being serious. My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.” People like others who who can make them laugh. Some studies even say that men who are funny are intelligent. In this world of violence and problems, humor can diffuse any situation. Laugh things off and make others smile. You have the power to be a magician by changing other people’s moods instantly. This is what Muhammad Ali did to people. A genius!
- Be a good friend: “friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” A friend is someone who is there for you when it counts. Someone who is there to pick you up when you’re down and stand up for you when you are not around. Be a good friend by your actions and not your words. Anyone can wine and dine you or flatter you, but not everyone can be there for you when you need him or her, unless they are your true friend. Be that friend who is always there for your friends.
- Use your time wisely: “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.” Your time is your life. Don’t waste it. Focus on your goals and keep on going. Take it one day at a time and win more days than you loose. This follows to point #12.
- What you think is what you become: “What you are thinking about, you are becoming.” Actions stem from thoughts. If you want to control your actions then develop positive thoughts. Great thoughts lead to great actions.
- Keep learning: “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Learning never ends. If you think you know it all then you don’t know anything. Growth happens overtime. Challenge yourself to learn what you do not know so that one day you will know and help others do the same.
- Take risks and speak up: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Don’t just remain quite, take a risk and put yourself out there. Muhammad Ali was always an expressive person. He took a risk even by speaking-not fearing any judgments, but at the end of the day, we can all say he was an influential speaker because of it.
- Fake it till you make it: “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” Before you are good at something, embrace the attitude/ persona/ thought process you want to achieve. Overtime the acting will become a new habit and you will exemplify those qualities you desire. No one is born with every skill or attribute. If there is a quality you like and you don’t have it-yet, learn how to fake it till you make it. Go!
- Love others: “If we continue to think and live as if we belong only to different cultures and different religions, with separate missions and goals, we will always be in self-defeating competition with each other. Once we realize we are all members of humanity, we will want to compete in the spirit of love.” If you want to give to others you must first be able to love others.
- Inspire and give to others : “I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world. You have a gift that the world needs. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our room in heaven.”-Ali. Ali was known to help the poor on the streets and be part of multiple humanitarian organizations. He was awarded the “lifetime Achievement Award.” My Kofi Annan among others.
In one of Ali’s interviews he was asked
What would you like people to think about you when your gone?
Muhammad Ali replied,
“He took a few cups of love.
He took one table spoon of patience.
One table spoon, tea-spoon of generosity.
One pint of kindness.
He took one quart of laughter.
One pinch of concern.
And then he mixed willingness with happiness.
He added lots of faith.
And he stirred it up well.
Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime.
And he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”
In short, Muhammad Ali taught me to stick to my values and therefore be comfortable of who I am. I learned that if I am myself then I can sincerely be in a position to improve and be able to give my gift to people around me. If everyone can do this then the world would be a better place. We need everyone’s gifts to shine especially in the darkness.
Rest in peace, champ.
Virtuous actions consist of abandoning the ten negative actions and, on the other hand, of practicing their opposite.
The ten virtuous actions of Tibetan Buddhism are:
1. By avoiding killing and harming the others, and by protecting the life of other beings we will gain a long life and a good health.
2. By avoiding stealing and by practicing generosity, by making sacrifices, we will have wealth, no thieves and enemies, and a good physique.
3. By maintaining a pure sexual conduct, we will have a good partner and only a few enemies.
4.By avoiding lying and by talking sincerely and directly, we will be appreciated and respected by everyone.
5. By avoiding slandering and by making peace between the people that hate each other, we will have disciples and respectful employees.
6. By avoiding painful words and by talking calmly, amiably and gently, we will hear nice things.
7. By avoiding talking uselessly and by talking about important things, our words will be listened.
8. By avoiding greed and by cultivating an open and generous mentality, our wishes will come true.
9. By avoiding having bad thoughts and by cultivating love and goodwill, we won’t be afraid and we won’t suffer any harm.
10. By avoiding being involved in wrong beliefs, by cultivating the real point of view and by practicing it, we will have a correct and intelligent vision of reality.
We can try to figure out the hard parts of life, the challenges, to open the closed doors of life on our own—or we can refer to humankind’s wisdom.
1.”If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. “
I need to challenge myself to inspire yourself: I need to work with those who know their passion if I want to succeed.
2.”There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
When I’m mean to others in order to make myself feel better, I make myself smaller. “Do you feel victory when your words cause pain?”
3. “An amateur practices until he can play it correctly, a professional practices until he can’t play it incorrectly.” Or, better, since perfection is not the object: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.”
4. “We judge ourselves by our intentions but others by their actions.”
Boom. Perspective. This one has stuck with me. As VP Biden put it today, we can judge other’s actions, but not their motivation.
5. “If it takes less than five minutes, just do it now.”
Don’t procrastinate. The obstacle will fester, and it will take the same amount of time to do then as now but you will have lived with the festering for longer. As Trungpa Rinpoche puts it, approach the challenge directly.
6. “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.”
Measure twice. Slow down. Breathe. The Lincoln quote about sharpening the axe comes to mind.
7. “When you are torn between 2 choices, always pick the one that will make the best story – grandpa always said this and once I started following it, life became a lot more interesting.”
Approach your cowardice as if stepping forward will make for an adventure. It will.
8. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
So, work hard. Because some talent out there works hard, too. “90% of talent is interest.” Pick your passion—but that’s not enough. Here’s more on Right Livelihood.
9. Criticism, if constructive, is a greater gift and a surer sign of true friendship than complements.
10. Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Or, Buddha: holding onto anger is like holding onto a piece of hot coal preparing to throw it at someone. You’re the one who gets burned.
11. It’s okay if it’s not okay. It’s okay for things to not always be okay.
Listen to some Blues. Be okay with not okay. Practice tonglen.
David Bowie has died aged 69 following a “courageous” battle with cancer, surrounded by his family.
Through the singer’s official Facebook page, a statement said: “January 10 2016 – David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. “While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
While he will be remembered for his influence through the music and entertainment industry, his way with words should also be celebrated.
Here’s a run-down of the legendary performer’s most memorable quotes:
“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.” Madison Square Gardens on his 50th birthday.
“I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, “F**k that. I want to be a superhuman.”
“Fame itself… doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.” Q Magazine, 1990.
“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.” GQ, 2002
“I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me.” 60 Minutes, 2002.
“You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.”
“You know, what I do is not terribly intellectual. I’m a pop singer for Christ’s sake.”GQ, 2002
“I don’t know how many times someone has come up to me and said, ‘Hey, Lets dance!’. I hate dancing. God, it’s stupid.”
“I was virtually trying anything… And I think I have done just about everything that it’s possible to do – except really dangerous things, like being an explorer. But anything that Western culture has to offer – I’ve put myself through it.” Telegraph, 1996
“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.” The Word, 2003
“Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere.” Esquire, 2004.
– Source: Independent
I read a lot of biographies and memoirs about inspiring peoplewho place radical trust in God. (By “radical” I don’t mean reckless or imprudent, but am referring to the difficult, very counter-cultural act of recognizing God’s sovereignty over every area of our lives.
More on that here.) From He Leadeth Me to God’s Smuggler, Mother Angelica to The Heavenly Man to The Shadow of His Wings, these true stories are about people from all walks of the Christian life: Catholic and Protestant, consecrated religious and lay people, men and women. And yet they all have distinct similarities in their approaches to life and the Lord.
I found it fascinating to see what common threads could be found in the lives of these incredible people who place so much trust in the Lord, and thought I’d share in case others find it inspiring as well.
1. THEY ACCEPT SUFFERING
One of the most powerful things I’ve read in recent memory is Brother Yun’s story of being a persecuted pastor in China, as recounted in the book The Heavenly Man. After facing weeks of torture, including electrocution, starvation, beatings, and having needles shoved under his fingernails, he was thrown in a box that was four feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, where he would stay indefinitely. The day after he was put in this mini cell, he felt prompted to pray for a Bible — a ridiculous idea, considering that many people were in prison at that very moment for being in possession of such contraband. Yet he prayed anyway. And, inexplicably, the guards threw a Bible into his cell the next morning. He writes:
I knelt down and wept, thanking the Lord for this great gift. I could scarcely believe my dream had come true! No prisoner was ever allowed to have a Bible or any Christian literature, yet, strangely, God provided a Bible for me! Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, he had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.
Now, the less saintly among us (cough-cough) might have reacted to that a little differently. Had I been tortured and thrown in a coffin-like cell, my reaction to receiving a Bible would have likely been more along the lines of, “Thanks for the Bible, Lord, but could we SEE ABOUT GETTING ME OUT OF THIS METAL BOX FIRST?!?!” I wouldn’t have even “counted” the Bible as an answered prayer since my main prayer — reducing my physical suffering — had gone unanswered.
Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering. They have a laser focus on getting themselves and others to heaven. In Brother Yun’s case, he saw through that answered prayer that God was allowing him to grow spiritually and minister to his captors, so his circumstances of suffering in an uncomfortable cell became almost irrelevant to him.
2. THEY ACCEPT THE INEVITABILITY OF DEATH
Similar to the above, people who place great trust in God can only do so with a heaven-centered worldview. They think in terms of eternity, not in terms of calendar years. Their goal is not to maximize their time on earth, but rather to get themselves and as many other people as possible to heaven. And if God can best do that by shortening their lifespans, they accept that.
The Shadow of His Wings is filled with jaw-dropping stories of Fr. Goldmann’s miraculous escapes from death during World War II, which begs the question, “What about all the people who didn’t escape death?” Fr. Goldmann would probably respond by saying that God saving him from death was not the blessing in and of itself — after all, every single one of us will die eventually. The blessing was saving him from death so that he could continue his ministry bringing the Gospel to the Nazis. He eventually died while building a ministry in Japan, and presumably accepted that God would bring good from his passing, even though there was undoubtedly more work he wanted to do.
3. THEY HAVE DAILY APPOINTMENTS WITH GOD
I have never heard of a person who had a deep, calm trust in the Lord who did not set aside time for focused prayer every day. Both in the books I’ve read and in real life, I’ve noticed that people like this always spend at least a few moments — and up to an hour or two if circumstances permit — focused on nothing but prayer, every day. Also, they tend to do it first thing in the morning, centering themselves in Christ before tackling anything else the day may bring.
4. IN PRAYER, THEY LISTEN MORE THAN THEY TALK
I’ve written before about my amazement that really holy people seem to get their prayers answered more often than the rest of us. I’d heard enough stories of people praying for something very specific, then receiving it, that I started to wonder if they were psychic or God just liked them more than the rest of us or something. What I eventually realized is that their ideas about what to pray for came from the Holy Spirit in the first place, because they spent so much time seeking God’s will for them, day in and day out.
So, to use the example of a famous story from Mother Angelica’s biography, she had a satellite dish delivery man at the door who needed $600,000 or he was going to return the dish, thus killing all the plans for the new station. She ran to the chapel and prayed, and a guy she’d never met randomly called and wanted to donate $600,000. Her prayer wasn’t answered because she had a personal interest in television and just really, really wanted it, but because she had correctly discerned God’s plan that she was to start a television station on this particular day.
5. THEY LIMIT DISTRACTIONS
Of all the amazing stories in God’s Smuggler, one of the lines that jumped out to me the most in the book was in the epilogue, when the authors talk about how Brother Andrew’s work has continued in 21st century:
“I won’t even consider installing one of those call waiting monstrosities,” he exclaimed, “that interrupt one phone conversation to announce another.” Technology, Andrew says, makes us far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. “Our first priority should be listening in patience and silence for the voice of God.”
Far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. That line has haunted me ever since I read it. I love technology, but it does come with a huge temptation to feel a general increase in urgency in our lives: I have to reply to that email! Respond to that comment on my wall on Facebook! Ret-tweet that tweet! Read that direct message! Listen to that voicemail! Here in the connected age, we are constantly bombarded with demands on our attention. Periods of silence, where we can cultivate inner stillness and wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are increasingly rare.
One thing that all the people in these books have in common is that they had very little of this pressure of false urgency. It’s hard to imagine Fr. Ciszek coming up with the breathtaking insights about God’s will that he shared in He Leadeth Me with his iPhone buzzing alerts every few minutes, or Brother Yun seeing the subtle beauty of God’s plan in the midst of persecution while keeping his Twitter status updated on a minute-by-minute basis.
6. THEY SUBMIT THEIR DISCERNMENT TO OTHERS
People who have a long history of watching the way the Lord works in their lives notice that he often speaks through holy friends, family members and clergy. If they discern that God is calling them to something, especially if it’s something big, they ask trusted Christian confidantes to pray about the matter and see if they discern the same thing. And when others warn them not to follow a certain path — especially if it’s a spouse, confessor or spiritual director — they take those indicators very seriously.
7. THEY OFFER THE LORD THEIR COMPLETE, UNHESITATING OBEDIENCE
One of my favorite parts of God’s Smuggler is when Brother Andrew got a visit from a man named Karl de Graaf who was part of a prayer group in which people often spent hours of time in prayer, most of it listening in silence:
I went out to the front stoop, and there was Karl de Graaf. “Hello!” I said, surprised.
“Hello, Andy. Do you know how to drive?”
“No,” I said, bewildered. “No, I don’t.”
“Because last night in our prayers we had a word from the Lord about you. It’s important for you to be able to drive.”
“Whatever on earth for?” I said. “I’ll never own a car, that’s for sure.”
“Andrew,” Mr. de Graaf spoke patiently, as to a slow-witted student, “I’m not arguing for the logic of the case. I’m just passing on the message.” And with that, he was striding across the bridge.
Despite his initial hesitation, Brother Andrew discerned that this was something that God was calling him to do, so he learned to drive. It seemed like a complete waste of time, an utterly illogical use of his resources, but he was obedient to the Lord’s call. I won’t spoil what happened next for those of you who plan to read the book, but let’s just say that shortly after he received his license, it turned out to be critical to the future of his ministry (which eventually brought the Gospel to thousands of people behind the Iron Curtain) that he know how to drive.
I often think of how Mr. de Graaf responded when Brother Andrew was scratching his head about this odd message: “That’s the excitement in obedience,” he said. “Finding out later what God had in mind.”
Obviously we can’t grow closer to God by aping the actions of others, but I find lists like this helpful as a starting point for reflection on my own spiritual progress. I hope you found it helpful as well!
Some days our minds have a difficult time understanding God’s plan. At least that’s true for me. I’m guessing it’s true for you too. We want so desperately to “get it all.” To see God’s plan for the future. To understand how it is all going to work out right here on this earth. In this decade. Or this year. Or this week. Or this second.
I can’t see the future. Although my kids might argue with that statement a bit. After all, they think I have eyes in the back of my head.
When I can’t understand God’s plan, there is a question I find myself asking:
Where is God in all this?
The more I’ve been reflecting on this question recently, the more I’ve realized that the problem is not where God is.
Because God is everywhere.
The problem is that I’m asking the wrong question. You see, the question I should be asking is:
Why can’t I see God in this?
Because His fingerprints are all over His handiwork. Even when bad things happen to good people, He molds and reshapes until you can’t even recognize the bad anymore. It’s a plan called “redemption.”
So I’ve stopped asking God where He is. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that He’s been here since before the beginning of time and He’s not going anywhere. The Alpha and Omega.
I’ve started asking Him to reveal Himself to me.
Lord, help me see Your work in this situation.
I pray prayers like this one for when you can’t understand God’s plan.
And I am reminded to trust the Creator of the universe through these 14 Bible verses for when I can’t understand God’s plan.
So I thought I would share them with you.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Ps. 8:3&4
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? (this is God questioning Job) Job 38:35&36
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. Isa. 45:18
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luke 12:28
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:9
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, Deut. 7:9
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Ps. 48:14
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isa. 40:28
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Ps. 111:10
Do you have a Bible verse you could share that helps you understand God’s plan when you can’t? Would love it if you’d leave it in the comments.
Author: Rachel Wojnarowski