Class

“Hope we can teach our daughters that the word ‘class’ doesn’t involve flying private, wearing loboutin shoes and carrying a Kelly bag. ‘The word ‘class’ and ‘classy’ should mean what happens when you are able to be thankful, able to give and be a true friend to anybody regardless of their background and where they come from. That is class. It’s a beautiful wave that washes away faults and paints things in a graceful light.’” @kushascorner

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Unity Starts in You and Me

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[Image from Heidi’s Bridge]

By: Gabriela Yareliz

People often talk about unity. We talk about power in numbers. We discuss causes for which we should “band together.” Yet, when you see how people live and lead their individual lives, they don’t strive for unity, even on the individual relational level. I don’t mean this in the sense that we outright reject people bluntly, but I think part of a side effect stemming from our society’s narcissism is division. The more obsessed people become with themselves and striving to outdo one another, the farther we become from each other.

What does it mean to strive for unity as individuals, so we as a body of children of God can come together with true unity. According to Thomas Merton, it’s worth exploring what unity is not. He explains:

“People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their own desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world.

They try to become real by imposing themselves on other people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created goods and thus emphasizing the difference between themselves and the other men who have less than they, or nothing at all.

They can only conceive one way of becoming real: cutting themselves off from other people and building a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and other men. They do not know that reality is to be sought not in division, but in unity, for we are ‘members one of another.'” (47-48) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

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[Image from The Every Girl]

The man who lives in division is living in death. He cannot find himself because he is lost; he has ceased to be a reality. The person he believes himself to be is a bad dream. And when he dies he will discover that he long ago ceased to exist because God, Who is infinite reality and in whose sight is the being of everything that is, will say to him: ‘I know you not.'” (48) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

I found this thought so fascinating. To live in division is to invite death into your life. This isn’t about having or not having (as far as material goods are concerned) but about where your heart and identity are rooted. The key is to live a life where God does not say “I know you not,” but to live a life where God knows our hearts. And even in our imperfection, when we seek Him, He calls us friend. He calls us son and daughter.

Let us seek unity in our individual existence (with colleagues, family, friends and spouses), and I truly believe that from there we will see it on a larger scale. Let us make sure that we are known by God. Let’s be extra, not in the way we distinguish ourselves, but in the way we love.

True Obstacle

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Art by Henri Matisse

By: Gabriela Yareliz

“There is no evil in anything created by God, nor can anything of His become an obstacle to our union with Him. The obstacle is in our ‘self’, that is to say in the tenacious need to maintain our separate, external egotistical will.” (21) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

I feel that those of us who care about self improvement and growth, and even those who don’t, we are searching for the things that stand in our way. But, what if we realized that our greatest obstacle and spring of all issues is in ourselves and not in that which surrounds us.

In an image-driven society that cares almost solely on a mass-accepted aesthetic and popularity, a generation finds itself anxious, defeated and striving toward the illusive.

“[C]reated things do not bring us joy but pain. Until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us.” (25) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

“Instead of worshipping God through His creation, we are always trying to worship ourselves by means of creatures. But to worship our false selves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell.” (26) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

So many give up a real life for applause or a sponsorship nowadays. Which image are we trying to portray to the world? We compartmentalize our lives, and separate parts of our hearts, as if we could do that. Instead, ending up torn and confused. We are spiritual beings who need to have true spiritual growth, not some semblance of it to appease the spectators around us. We live off of false images of ourselves and others.

“The ‘marriage’ of body and soul in one person is one of the things that makes man the image of God; and what God has joined no man can separate without danger to his sanity.” (27) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

When will we learn that we must wholly seek after something. I think part of what we lack as a society is sincerity. No one takes his or her whole self to pursue something. Instead, things are sought out superficially, with ten back up plans, showing we are not wholly invested in something. Rather, we are waiting to see what serves us best. Which ultimately leaves us with nothing of value and cheap convenience.

So, as spiritual beings, how do we find God?

“The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.” (36) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

In scripture, God promises simply that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him.

“Our discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us. […] We only know Him in so far as we are known by Him.” (39) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

Getting to know God requires vulnerability. It requires us to put all of our eggs in one basket and leave it at His feet, so to speak. It requires true worship.

Thomas Merton described a sincere seeking of God in the following way:

“This is then what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God;

to cultivate an intellectual freedom from the images of created things in order to receive the secret contact of God in obscure love; to love all men as myself; to rest in humility and to find peace in withdrawal from conflict and competition with other men; to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads of judgment and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions that I have no obligation to carry;

to have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down from its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God, poised in tranquil and effortless concentration upon the point of my dependence on Him;

to gather all that I am, and have all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God to do His will.” (45-46) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

I pray that we can each take a moment, on this quiet, rainy, NYC Sunday, to reflect. To see that the obstacle standing in the way of who we were created to be and who we are is our “self” and not the erroneous things we seek, but that it all stems from our hearts. And once we go to the root, perhaps we can sit in stillness and decide to wholeheartedly seek after God. For once that happens and you’re all in, God promises He will be found. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Pad Man

Countless Bollywood actors are rising up in support of the film Pad Man, based on the true story of a man whose pad-making skills changed India and women’s health. It’s a fantastic film celebrating a feminine hygiene pioneer. It has been powerful to see some of India’s most famous faces holding a pad. No big deal!

Ending the stigma and ending the shame that is often attached to feminine hygiene products and the female reproductive system is a big endeavor, but I think we can all do our part.

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Awakening

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[Image from & Other Stories]

By: Gabriela Yareliz

It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us.New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton, 10

What a privilege that God is constantly pursuing us. He is constantly trying to open our eyes to things, as soon as we are willing to receive His Word. He speaks to us, constantly. He loves us, constantly. So, if we cannot awaken ourselves, then, what is our duty or task?

I am fully convinced that we are spiritual beings, and without a relationship with our Creator, something is missing, just as it would be with a parent and child. We cannot have true health, true healing, true love, true peace, true joy, true wellness or true satisfaction, if we don’t have God’s voice speaking into our lives. His presence.

What we need is sincerity. We must sincerely and humbly seek Him. And it is there where we will be found. We are often found, even when we are not looking for Him. He knows our hearts. And once He finds us, if we have the humility to open ourselves up to the most powerful Force and Being in the universe, we find our lives and the very essence of our hearts changed.

He awakens in us a deep faithfulness, honesty, loyalty, peace, compassion and love. He shows us where we must forgive and where we must love more. In doing this, He heals our hearts. He reminds us time and time again that we are loved and valued.

My one desire and my one joy should be to know: ‘Here is the thing that God has willed for me.’ […] And by accepting all things from Him, I receive His joy into my soul.New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton, 17-18

I pray that this evening, and forever after, you allow yourself to be found. That you may allow yourself to be awakened. That you may hear His voice and be receptive to His love. And that by accepting His will and providence in your life, that you may find joy and peace. May you embrace the unforgettable journey you were made to walk.

Broken Brain

Current obsession alert! This weekend only, if you follow this link and sign up by email, you can get access to a link with all 8 episodes of the docuseries Broken Brain, by Dr. Hyman. He discusses: disease, depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, autism, brain injuries, levels of toxicity in the body, hormones, gut health, and solutions to upkeep a sharp mind, no matter what your stage in life.

It’s science-backed, comprehensive and fascinating. This is a doctor who understands that one part of the body affects another, and it can certainly affect the mind.

Also discussed are:

Nutrition
Exercise
Sleep
Stress management
Relationship and connection

Check it out, if you have the time this weekend. It’s worth the binge!

Finding Joy In Dark Times

Joy doesn’t demand that trouble is removed from our life, but rather that we savor any good gift in dark times.” Flourish: 21 Ways To Thrive Before 45, The Bible App

By: Gabriela Yareliz

There are many times when joy seems like a fleeting notion. There are circumstances where it is thought inappropriate to feel joy. There are times where it’s all we desperately want, but it seems out of reach.

I have been surrounded by a lot of sadness recently, and sadness has intruded into certain aspects of my own life.

One can feel like a walking zombie, aching with hurt. It may be hurt where someone who hurt us disregards us and seems happy anyway; hurt of abandonment; hurt of feeling like someone important to you favors someone else who you feel has hurt you; hurt from illness; hurt from betrayal; hurt from exploitation; hurt from loneliness; hurt. Whatever the root.

But still, scripture promises joy. Joy despite circumstances— not joy dependent on circumstances. Joy rooted in God that serves as a source of strength.

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)

I came across the quote at the top of the post, and it touched me. It was what I needed for the morning. A reminder that joy is rooted in gratitude and worship. It is rooted in clinging to the sliver of light that glows softly in the darkness. Keeping the flame burning. It’s always needed. It should be lasting. It’s always appropriate. And it is promised.