Category Archives: spirituality

My Story of Grace

I am so excited to share this news with you. 365 Moments of Grace is out TODAY and I’m a Contributing Author! In its pages, I have shared my personal story of Grace – how I found it, what it means to me, and how it’s ever-present in my life…even when I forget. Like last week.

I took last week off from writing a blog, because I was overwhelemed by the recent tragedies in our world. My system simply needed a little R&R to reboot. While I was resting, I started writing about what I was experiencing, thinking, and feeling. As I wrote, I was reminded of the importance of grace in our lives, especially when everything seems to be unraveling. So, the timing of this book couldn’t be more perfectly aligned. (I’ll be sharing what I wrote in an upcoming blog, too.)

As such, I’m so happy to share this book with you! As a contributing author, you’ll see that this is a collaborative work, and I think it’s ingenious.

365 Moments of Grace is a daily devotional created around a central idea (grace) with over 250 authors sharing their stories and wisdom. Most devotionals have a theme and a single voice, which sometimes can feel repetitive. In our book, each voice is unique, which gives a much broader perspective to the topic. Awesome!

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I hope you find this book to be a wonderful source of calm and grace in your year ahead. And frankly, I hope you consider purchasing it today – because we would love to be ranked as a “bestseller” on our launch day, a title that can be shared among all the contributing authors. (Until I reach that status on my own – which I know is just around the corner – it would be lovely to reach it as part of a collaborative soulful effort.) 

If you’d like to support us in reaching our “bestselling” status, and more importantly, to add a wonderful inspirational book to your bookshelf, please buy your copy today, by using this link. This link is personal to me, and will actually support me as one of the authors (albeit a teeny-tiny percentage), which would be additionally awesome, and greatly appreciated. Feel free to share it with your friends and family too. Of course, you can purchase the book at any time, and an e-book should be coming out in a couple of months, too.

As always, I appreciate your support, thoughtfulness, and encouragement on this journey of mine, as I keep writing and helping others through theirs.

xoxo,
Martina

P.S. There are over 100 (!) Bonus Gifts available from various authors when you purchase the book, including my very own hand-drawn mandala on Grace. Check them out, here.

Competitive Spirituality

I recently had a conversation with someone who seemed to be trying to show me that their spiritual study was more advanced than mine by telling me something they knew and thought I didn’t know…in a somewhat condescending preachy way.

At the time, I was taken aback by the tone in their language as they tried to point out this deep understanding that they thought was theirs alone when I shared that I had gained a similar understanding. It felt like a virtual pat on my head accompanied by a “there, there,” as if they couldn’t quite believe that I had also grappled with this question and information myself.

Frankly, I was a bit shocked by the whole interaction, and it took me a few days to understand why. Because, here’s the thing:

Spirituality is not a competition.

It’s not a race. There is no great “finish line” in the sky or hierarchical set of milestones on the spiritual journey. We each have our own paths and our own measurements along the way. Heck, we even have our own timers and starting points.

We, ourselves, get to design, follow, and seek out the spiritual curriculum of our lives.

For some that follows a more pre-designed path, and for others it can feel like a wild goose chase. There are even paths that are laid out by following crumbs, not to mention the countless other ways people pursue faith and spirituality. All of which are equally valid.

The similarity between our paths is simply that all the “finish lines” are defined as the same place: connection with Source. (or God, or the Divine, or Allah, or the Universe, or Nature, etc.) The name we use is most important to us, individually. Collectively, the most important word is “connection.”

Our journeys are varied, and no one journey is more important or more advanced than another. They’re simply different. The teacher often becomes the student, and vice versa, because we are all sharing the knowledge of what we have individually understood in order to foster connection. Connection with each other, and connection with Source.

When we see a “guru,” “teacher,” or “minister” espousing truths, we automatically assume that they are more “enlightened” than we are. But why? The fact of the matter is that they may have acquired different knowledge and understanding than we possess due to study, which they are then able to share in an accessible and digestible way. Their sharing allows others to remember and re-connect faster. The guru does not hold a secret key to the Universe; they are being the connector that they signed up to be. They are fulfilling their role: to study and share in a meaningful way, thereby helping others. It is a profession in the same way a doctor or web developer is also a profession. Their knowledge is not “better” – it is different, and it’s their job to share it. (It’s our job not to put them on a pedestal and make them un-relatable.)

It’s somewhat easier to understand Competitive Spirituality when talking about “gurus” or “teachers,” because there is an identifiable role. But what happens when it’s a friend or family member? An acquaintance or a classmate? Why do some people feel the need to one-up their neighbor in spiritual pursuits?

I can admit that I have been guilty of this in the past, partially out of genuine excitement for something I recently learned and understood, and partially out of a misguided desire to help others by trying to get them to bypass their own path. (And yes, if I’m honest, partly out of ego and insecurity.) 

I know that I have previously engaged in this practice that is now so out of integrity to me, which is why I truly needed to ask the question: “Why do we make spirituality a competition?”

It would be easy to say it’s ego, but I think it’s more than that. I think ego combines with our natural desire and inclination to reconnect and “know” who we are and where we came from, in order to make sense of it all. It’s an existential question that has intangible answers, which leaves us in unknowing and therefore trying to set up some sort of system or measurement, resulting in competition.

Unknowing is uncomfortable, and yet spirituality is a process of

unknowing – remembering – knowing – understanding – questioning – and unknowing, once more.

It’s this process that develops our faith muscle, which is the source of spirituality. When faith becomes a knowing there can be no measurement, no competition, only the desire to remember more, for remembering’s sake. And then, ultimately, to help others who cross our path and continue on their journey as we continue on ours.

Perhaps what matters most, therefore, is understanding the simple truth that spirituality is not a competition and then choosing to live our lives from that perspective. We accept that our knowledge and experience is not better than anyone else’s, it’s different. As it should be.

Because, at the end of the day, if we all consciously knew everything at the same time, how could we help each other or undergo experiences to learn and grow within ourselves, and collectively as a society or community? If all paths were the same, traveled at the same time and pace, how would we experience feelings of joy or sadness? Triumph or failure?

We wouldn’t.

We would lose what it would mean to be human, which means we would also lose our inclination to reconnect with each other and Source. Our nature would be lost; we would be lost.

So, for me, even though I was vexed by the interaction, I had to see it for what it was and then choose a different way. It became an opportunity for me to validate and remember my own path. What a gift!

It was a strange gift, of course, but a gift nonetheless. A gift which resulted in understanding the simplest of truths, which will now be emblazoned on my virtual wall of reminders:

Spirituality is never a competition.

And… if we make it into one, we are lost.

spirituality

Faith, Spirituality, and Religion (plus my thoughts on their role in terror, violence, and love)

Just after the San Bernardino mass shootings, I queried a trusted group of friends for suggestions for my blog – the one that was supposed to run last week. (Perhaps you noticed that I never wrote one.) You see, I found myself somewhat incapable of writing in the wake of such tragedy and senseless violence, again. Everything I wrote kept devolving into anger and frustration. I was mad. What’s worse is that I was aimlessly mad, and the arrows that were the words I was typing were not hitting any marks. I simply couldn’t coherently get my thoughts on paper without some random rants and expletives in the mix.

Instead of offering suggestions, however, my tribe of trusted souls encouraged me to share my thoughts and my process with regard to the violence. My friend, Tyler, said, I’d love to hear what you’re really feeling and where you’re at and how you’re working through it. The real-er, the better in my estimation.”

At the time, I couldn’t go there. I hadn’t worked through it. Like most of the rest of the world I was in shock and disbelief that yet another report of gun violence and a mass shooting had occurred. I have many more thoughts that I will eventually put to paper, but it would’ve been a disservice to my readers, and indeed to myself, for me to write an emotionally reactionary piece on the violence and instability of terrorism, both at home and abroad.

And then, this past weekend I had my first-ever Ayurvedic consultation. Paul, my consultant, said something so poignant to me that I think I stopped breathing for a moment from the depth and simplicity of the words. He shared a wisdom from his teacher, Maharishi, that went something like this:

‘If you are willing to go to war, kill, and fight in the name of your religion, you’ve misunderstood your religion.’

I am certain I have paraphrased, but you get the idea. Which is what has prompted me to write this week about Faith, Spirituality, and Religion. Because, frankly, I think it matters more than we’re admitting. When people are making statements and taking inhumane actions based on their “religion” it bears taking note and actually discussing the topic.

I’ve tackled these topics before, individually and sometimes together. There certainly is a lot of language “out there” about the difference between spirituality and religion. So let’s start there.

Colloquially, religion is thought of as the practice of one’s faith within set rules of doctrinal teachings, typically conveyed in writing or sacred texts. The best examples of this are: The Bible, The Quran, The Torah, and the Vedic texts. These writings hold the foundational teachings of their respective religions. Over centuries or millennia, they have been shared, taught, and, at times, imposed on people, with the mindset of exclusivity. This last phrase is where we developed our current understanding of the word “religion.” Modern understanding of the word revolves around keeping ourselves separate and apart from each other, by practicing “exclusive” rights to the Divine. (aka: My religion is better than your religion.)

But years ago, I attended a lecture by Pittman McGehee, D.D. at the Jung Center in Houston, and he proposed an alternate definition of religion that restores it’s original intent based on the origin of the word. Religion is akin to religare, which means to reconnect.

From this perspective, religion is about the act of reconnecting to that which we hold to be true and know in our hearts, which resides outside of us, and is not exclusive, but rather inclusive. For me, this is how we currently define spirituality.

Spirituality is, in my opinion, the knowing that there is something greater than yourself, that you can’t touch, see, or quantify, but is connected to all things, inclusively. The Druids knew this as the inherent wisdom in Nature. The Abrahamic religions refer to it as God, Yahweh, or Allah. Spirituality is an act of reconnection. It is an inclusive practice that recognizes the collective above all things, allowing each to practice his or her own faith, with respect for the intention of reconnecting to something greater, something to which we all have access, in myriad forms.

So, what is faith then?

Historically, and currently, faith has been used as a scapegoat for war, terror, violence, and oppression. “People of faith” have committed atrocious acts of horror in the name of their beliefs. Five hundred years ago, the Christians persecuted non-Christians during the Spanish Inquisition. Seventy years ago, the Jews were practically decimated, and now a statistically small group of Muslims are terrorizing the world in the name of their faith. But it’s not their faith that’s driving them. It’s their beliefs.

Is faith belief? No. Belief is a choice. Faith is a knowing, a knowing that transcends choice. Faith is, above all else, a feeling that requires no justification or defense. It simply is.

Which is why I needed to take pause and write about this trifecta of theology. I think the horrific events in the world have caused many of us, myself included, to dig deeper into my faith, into what I know – and, more importantly perhaps, to challenge what I’ve been told (or taught) to believe. Beliefs can change. Inner knowing is constant. It’s what gives you hope when times are at their darkest. Faith is the seedling of Hope. It’s the flint that creates the spark that leads to the fire. And faith is all-inclusive. We can actually use logic to understand this concept.

Let’s assume for a second that I am God. If I were God, and I wanted all of my creations – but specifically my human creations – to find their way back to me, would I limit the paths to just one? Or would I want every human on earth to find me in their way, from their hearts? Would I plant a seed within them that would one day rise and grow? I would. I would be that smart. I would know that it would take billions of seed plantings – one for each human – to ensure each one had a path back to their knowing, to me, however that shows up for them, as they are ready and able to receive it. For some this is religion, for others it’s nature. For everyone, though, it involves some measure of faith.

So, logically, faith is infinite. Faith is what some call the God gene or the Divine DNA. We all have it within us. It springs to life in different circumstances and at different times, as we need it or pursue it. I’ve created an acronym to define faith. You may have seen me use it before. Faith is

Feeling
Alive
In
The
Heart

At this holiest time of year, celebrated from Pagan times as the Winter Solstice, on up through the various holidays we enjoy today, we find opportunities to explore and restore our faith, in ourselves, in each other, and in humanity. We are being called to unite as one, to hold onto hope in the light of tragedy, and be the beacons that guide others to that same light when they are shrouded in darkness. A darkness I found myself flirting with after the most recent tragedy at San Bernardino.

The process of restoration that I’ve undergone in the last 10 days has involved a fair amount of numbing, distraction, reflection, self-care, and pursuit of joy. I have taken walks, taken pictures, enjoyed a lot of tea, as well as a salt bath, listened to music, and restored my connection with myself, and with what I know – with my faith. Faith in action is my spirituality. As I explored and embraced what faith means to me, I wrote about it. I share that writing with you here.

What Faith Means to Me

Faith gives me something to hold onto
when I feel like I have no strength left in my hands.

Faith brings me peace when everything around me,
outside of my control, is in chaos.

Faith restores me to my heart when I’ve lost my way.

Faith reminds me of what’s important, what’s less important,
and helps me create those two lists.

Faith shows me what’s possible in a world
that would have me believe otherwise.

Faith inspires me, every day, to be the best I can be, even when that “best” involves staying in my pajamas all day, behind closed doors, licking my wounds. Especially then.

Faith fills me when I’m running on empty.

Faith offers me abundance when I’m feeling less than worthy.

Faith grounds me in who I am, what I do, and where I’m going.

Faith shares wisdom and truth with me through beauty and through pain.

Faith leads me forward through darkness, fog, and broken terrain,
as well as the smooth pathways and flowing pastures.

Faith provides me with a sense of self, a sense of purpose,
and a sense of inner peace.

And mostly, Faith offers me all these things and asks nothing in return.

Faith, spirituality, and religion have been used for good and for evil. They have been the life jacket and the straight jacket, the prison and the freedom. The difference in how they manifest lies in the practitioner, resulting in love or terror. When respect, inclusion, understanding, and unity are their hallmarks, this trio of theology is the very definition of possibility, hope, and love. It is up to us – all of us – to ensure this is the way forward.

Wishing you many blessings for a joyous and loving holiday season, however, you choose to celebrate. May the light of the season be yours, and may you spread that light forward in peace.

The Little Things

Love and Life are found in the little things.

I had a conversation with my mentor recently in which we discussed the meaning of Life. As we were talking, I came up with an image, of sorts, to represent what I was trying to convey.

In much of Western medical thought life begins at the top of a pyramid, which is represented by the functionality of the heart, lungs, and brain. Life. From there it trickles down to the rest of the human experience, widening as it goes.

Life pyramid 1

Life as a top-down approach.

Indeed, Life can be defined scientifically like that, but I tend to disagree. Life, it seems to me, is a bottom-up proposition. Life is defined by all the little things that make it worthwhile for the heart, lungs, and brain to keep working. Life is found in the broadest expanse of the pyramid, comprised of tiny events, feelings, and experiences.

Life Pyramid 2

Life from a bottom-up approach

For who is to say that Life doesn’t continue in the hearts of others when one’s body has decided to leave? I think it does. We have a word for it: Legacy. I call it Love.

Love is all the little things. It’s the knowing smile from across the room that makes you feel instantly relaxed, assured, and at peace. It’s the tiny hand reflexively reaching up for yours as you go to cross a street. It’s the wag of a tail when you come home after a long day. It’s the whisper of the words “good night” when you’re too tired to speak. Love is a million little things that make it worthwhile to wake up the next day. Love is also the memories we hold in our hearts allowing others to live on in us.

Love is found in the little things. It’s the immeasurable moments that collectively create Life.

Hold on to Hope

Making Sense of the Senseless. We’ve all tried. On the news each night – whether you are watching local, national or international – we all hear of tragedies that make no sense. A suicide bombing here, an earthquake there, mudslides, shootings, fires, falls. It seems that every day, humanity experiences senseless acts of violence, nature and tragedy. And yet, we continue on.

The majority of us go to bed each night and wake up each morning with a new day filled with new opportunities to experience, learn, feel and grow. We watch, listen and experience our world around us as we celebrate milestones together, such as birthdays and anniversaries. But what do we do when the senseless hits home?

Most of us are lucky enough to go through life without experiencing the tragedy of a suicide bombing in our neighborhood, or a drive-by shooting. Those incidents are few and far between, though their prevalence on the media makes it seem like they are occurring everywhere. Truth be told, they are but a small percentage of the overall experiences of the human population. But they are tragedies nonetheless, that collectively affect our human psyche. So, what happens when tragedy – senseless tragedy – becomes personal? What happens when the nightly news story is about someone you know?

I recently had this experience for the first time in my life, and it is surreal. Nothing can prepare you for a senseless tragedy. Nothing. And in the end, you’re left with questions and memories. Eventually, the memories take over, but in the beginning the questions are most prevalent: Why? How? What for? I’m now paraphrasing my cousin Jerry, a priest, who conducted the funeral and memorial service for this tragedy. And I am more than honored to be able to share his words with you. Because their wisdom is so pure and simple. Here’s, generally, what he said:

How can we answer these questions? We can’t. There are no answers, and there never will be. What we have – what we always have – is hope. So hold on to hope.

And he’s right. Regardless of what religion, spirituality or beliefs you hold – there is always hope. Hope for mending a broken heart, hope for reincarnation, hope for a cure. The list goes on and on. Without hope, our world would be pretty dark.

Hope wakes us up in the morning after an hour of nightly news filled with tragedy and fear, mixed among the blessings and celebrations. Hope allows us to sleep at night, knowing that tomorrow is a new day, with new life and new opportunities.

“Hope,” (to quote ‘The Preacher’s Wife’), “is all a prayer is.”

So – how do we make sense of the senseless? We don’t. But with hope, we can move forward into our future, honoring our memories, and living each day anew. Hold on to Hope. You’ll be glad you did.