Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Practiced Ear Hears the Song of God in Nature

I sense a deep primordial kinship with the fall season.  As the Earth's energy slows down following the boisterous display of summer, I instinctively know it is time to draw within and spend quiet time in contemplation.  The need is strong, and the sometimes cloudy, cooler days complement this desire.

Lately, I find myself reflecting on the creativity of nature and the similarity of thoughts and seeds.  Whenever I plant a sunflower seed in my small patio garden, I can rest assured that the germinated seed will produce a sunflower.  So too will the thoughts I focus on produce their own likeness, and whether they are deemed desirable or undesirable depends on the quality of my thoughts.  It is important to choose my thoughts carefully so that what springs forth in my life is as dependable and desirable as what flourishes in my garden.

In joyous anticipation of partnering with nature, I pick up my pruning shears and trowel and head for my small back patio garden to view the results of the Southwest desert's harsh triple-digit temperatures. Despite appropriate care, some potted plants have not survived, much like some of my misplaced thoughts and desires. I bless them and with a sigh, scoop them up and recycle them into the earth.

I am heartened though that while some umbrella plants are brown half-way to the base of their sword-like leaves, they are still alive and worthy of continuing attention and care.  I know that with judicial pruning, some plant food and lower temperatures they will have a rebirth and soon settle in -- healthy and strong for the milder winter months.

It is with great pleasure that I notice the gentle breeze that cools my brow and plays a melody on the chimes.  I survey the healthy green of the large jasmine bush and the heavenly bamboo that long ago sent down their roots deep into the earth.  They can easily withstand the summer heat and the cold of winter.

I realize that many of us also seek to anchor our trust and faith into something greater than we are that will sustain us and enable us to not only survive but to thrive despite the traumas, trials and tribulations of life.

For sentimental reasons, I usually plant red tulip bulbs in pots and place them in a box of sawdust in the garage to prepare them for an early blooming period in a process known as "forcing."

Each time the brilliant red tulips reach full bloom in the still-cold days of winter, I honor the many flowering plants that have "nursed" me through trying times in my life.  They serve as gentle reminders to my yearning heart that spring will eventually burst forth once again in all of its full frolicking, rollicking and riotous splendor.

While surveying the ravages of summer on some of the plants, I realized I finally understood my late husband's seemingly blasé approach to flower and vegetable gardening.  As a master gardener as well as a practical  person, he would give the seeds and sprouts all the tender loving care necessary for optimal growth and then say, "Shape up or ship out."

He gave them every chance to survive, but when it became obvious that they weren't going to make it -- into the compost pile they went.  I now find this not only a well-reasoned approach to the mysterious vagaries of plant survival, but to the choices we make in life.  If our thoughts-decisions bring good results, excellent.  If not, we uproot them and choose new ones.

I was initiated into the joys of gardening in childhood by my grandmothers and my favorite uncle, and my lifelong interest was matched by that of my late husband.  They taught me that nature is the true language of our being, and that we can learn from it whatever we need to know about life.

The invitation is always there for us to draw near the bosom of nature.  If we lean close and listen, we can hear the serenade of God, and know that we are part of Creation and one with all life ... dissolving all fears.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart” (2013), “Tea with Elisabeth” (recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction), “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” (Nov. 2008), and “The Heart Knows the Way—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” (Feb. 2008), are available at and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Even When You Think the Other Guy Doesn't Deserve Forgiveness – You Do

“How can we ever have peace on the planet if we can’t have it in our own relationships and in our hearts?” ~Bill Ferguson

It’s soul-baring time again, dear readers. As you know, I’m committed to sharing with you the insights I gain while I grow through life’s challenges – or as I’ve learned to view them: opportunities. Well, here is another one. Forgiving those who I thought had wronged me in some way. And this was a big one for me.

For decades, I suffered emotional and mental anguish over a difficult relationship in my family. This was a person close to me; important to me, but even the simplest communication between us could deteriorate into misunderstanding and hard feelings. And I tried everything I could think of for what I hoped would be a remedy or even a gradual change of heart on the other side.

It wasn’t until I decided years ago to focus on the spiritual path that I learned the following truth: If I was the one who was suffering, I was the one with the problem. And no matter what someone else did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, the situation was about me and me alone. And all that suffering I endured was self-inflicted and had nothing, zip, zero to do with the other person.

With this new outlook, I understood why no hoped-for miracle healing between us was ever possible. During all those years of not getting along, I blamed the other person and patiently prayed for them to see the error of their ways. My thinking was: If only that other person would be kinder, more accepting, less judgmental – etc., etc., etc. Now I know that the only result possible from that approach was my ongoing pain, which never lessened and never contributed one iota to resolving the situation.

When I opted to take a higher road, I began to grasp what my inner guidance had been presenting to me for years. I finally accepted that humans are hard-wired by our egos to be right, to win – and to emerge from any conflict as the victor. It wouldn't have been enough for me for the other person to want reconciliation – they also had to know that they had been wrong and the cause of our problems all along. This automatic defensive mechanism causes us to react like robots and to blame others, so we can falsely see ourselves as innocents.

By doing this, according to relationship expert Bill Ferguson, we are literally choosing to sacrifice our own happiness, peace and well-being. With constancy, commitment and desire, it is possible to create a new way of living that requires taking responsibility for our lives and situations. I know. This approach set me on the path of clearing my false beliefs, and actually healing my pain and sadness. I also had to own the fact that I was the only person whose actions and reactions I could change.

Once I opened to taking responsibility for my life, relationships and my feelings around them, it became clear that this also meant accepting other people just as they are and not trying to change them. This is a hard but required first and major healing step. My inner guidance indicated that the next vital step was to initiate a daily forgiveness routine for myself and for the family member with whom I had never been able to have the relationship I desired. I understood that this forgiving could take some time for a full healing, and I had to be willing to stick with it as long as necessary to clear out longstanding negative emotions and resistance.

Here is a forgiveness affirmation that I have used successfully for many years: I fully and completely forgive myself for any real or imagined wrong done by me to me or to _______, past or present. I fully and completely forgive ___________ for any real or imagined wrong done to me past or present. I am free. S/he is free.

Once I was committed to taking responsibility for my own feelings and emotional well-being, and doing the forgiveness work, I could allow in new information on relationship issues to help me on my way. For example, another important step for me was letting go of my long-held and very strong belief that people and life were meant to be what I wanted them to be. It wasn’t easy, but as I began releasing this false requirement I could actually feel a healing – a new way of being – starting to take place within me.

From my experience, I can attest that whether the broken relationship is with a spouse, sibling, significant other, friend or anyone else, this is a viable approach to a true healing. Following this path, however, doesn’t always mean there will be a mutual reconciliation or healing. That other person still has the free will to do as he or she determines. It does, however, mean that through inner work we can free ourselves from the self-inflicted suffering and then, with love and blessings for the other person, move beyond the situation.

The good news in this self-focused approach is that we do hold the power to accomplish this within us. Without the other party’s cooperation or even awareness we can transform a negative situation into at least a benign one. We're the only ones we can change, so why not do that?

Actually I also believe that we come in to be teachers for each other. And I’m positive that this particular worthy and blessed “teacher” – the other person in my unhappy relationship – was and is unaware of my inner turmoil and wouldn’t have been able to relate to it, or understand it or help me in any way. It simply wasn’t their problem; it was mine.

I discovered that in taking back my power over my own feelings my life started working in a more desirable way. Once this major heart-ache and unhealthy distraction was off my heart and mind, I was free to love and bless the other individual from afar, and to spend my time and energy on furthering my life purpose.

Letting go of blame and taking responsibility for our lives seems to naturally create an environment of joy, peace and happiness.

I’ve also learned that as long as we still hurt or wish the situation were different, we have more inner work to do. When there’s no more negative energy-emotion around a situation or an individual, we can trust that we are healed.

Although the above approach is sometimes difficult to accept and difficult to put into practice, the truth is we aren’t here to force others to change to please us, or to point out the error of their ways; or they us. An insight I’ve gained from this and other lessons is that this is the way life on Earth works. The key to healing many of our life challenges is to clean up our own invalid thoughts, beliefs, life patterns and idealized (and false) self-images. This truth can set us free.

I believe relationships and families are universal laboratories in which we learn to love ourselves and others. When we love ourselves enough, we naturally seek positive changes that allow us to create more desirable and effective lives, filling our hearts with joy and love and our minds with blissful peace.

"When my life doesn’t work, I take full responsibility. I love myself just as I am, right here right now, and I love and release all others to their own destiny"


Copyright © 2013 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart” (2013), “Tea with Elisabeth” (recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction), “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” (Nov. 2008), and “The Heart Knows the Way—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” (Feb. 2008), are available at and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.