Category Archives: Uncategorized

Life is good. Life is bad. Either way, you’re right.


Brooke Cagle via

This story originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, 2/20/16.

How do you see life? Do you look at it as a series of struggles to overcome? Or do you view life with wonder and focus on the small and big moments that bring you joy and passion and love.

It’s funny how our frame of mind shapes our world, how when we expect bad things to happen they often do, and how when we expect things to turn out for the best we are often right. The old saying appears to be true: Life is a mirror and it reflects back to us what we think into it.

“You find what you look for: good or evil, problems or solutions.”

The above quote from John Templeton sums up the intimate relationship between our state-of-mind and the state of the world around us. Within each day and within each moment, we have the opportunity to look at life in a positive light or to put on dark-tinted glasses and see life as dreary and foreboding.

I know that for some, life is hard. They struggle with addictions or illnesses, are in soul-crushing relationships or have trouble keeping a roof over their head or food on the table. But if you don’t fall into those categories and still see life as a downer, it’s time to take a fresh look.

We can all expect, in the words of the Dude, to face “strikes and gutters, ups and downs…”—but many of life’s difficulties come from putting our own negative spin on events or failing to see hardships as learning experiences that prepare us for future growth. I bumped into a short poem by the talented young writer and yogini Sara Courter who reminds us that our past experiences shape us into the people we are today.

You’re so hard on yourself.

Take a moment.

Sit back.

Marvel at your life:

at the grief that softened you,

at the heartache that wisened you,

at the suffering that strengthened you.

Despite everything,

You still grow,

Be proud

Of this.

Within each moment of each day, we have the opportunity to turn things around. To view our own lives as noble undertakings in which we are active participants in doing what is good and right for ourselves and those around us. In the words of John Templeton:

We can see ourselves as patient and considerate. We can think of ourselves as focused and strong in all circumstances—strong with the ability to reach out a loving hand; strong with the ability to speak the right words, to take the right actions, and to become an unshakeable tower of strength, love and light.

The power resides within us to change the way we view the world, to become these beacons of strength and love and light. It’s not something anyone else can do for us, it’s something we must do for ourselves—and it starts with having the right frame of mind. As Templeton says:

You can complain because rosebushes have thorns…or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. It’s all how you look at it.

I recently published the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. It’s available at Amazon.


Walt Whitman on God, America and Life.


Walt Whitman by Mathew Brady, circa 1862

This story was first published on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos on February 4, 2017. To see my more recent columns, click here.

In my neck of the woods, the name Walt Whitman is associated with a bridge that connects the southern part of Philadelphia with Camden, New Jersey. You’ll usually hear about “the Walt Whitman” in connection with traffic jams or lane closures. But while reading Mary Oliver’s Upstream, I was reminded that the real Walt was perhaps our greatest American poet.

In 1855, at the age of 37, Whitman first published what was to become his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. He kept working on the poem for four decades, rewriting and adding to it over and over, until by 1892 it had grown from 12 poems to over 400.

Oliver describes Leaves of Grass as “a way to live, in the religious sense, that is intelligent and emotive and rich, and dependent only on the individual…no politics, no liturgy…just attention, sympathy, empathy.” She writes that Whitman’s aim was to “force open our souls” which he does with calls-to-arms like this:

Unscrew the locks from the doors!

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jams!

Whitman believed in God, and according to biographer David S. Reynolds “denied any one faith was more important than another, and embraced all religions equally.” Whitman himself once wrote “I adopt each theory, myth, god, and demi-god, I see that the old accounts, bibles, genealogies, are true, without exception.” He believed that God existed in all things and within all people, that we are God and God is us. In Leaves of Grass he explains:

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,

Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass

There are long passages in Leaves of Grass where Whitman offers glimpses of his America, his words taking us to the people and places that made up our country in the mid-1800s. He empathizes with what he sees, writing that “I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair and unbelief.” Whitman observes and reports and, with an economy of words, paints vivid scenes with each line:

The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,

The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,

The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white sails sparkle!)

The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,

The peddler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling about the odd cent),

The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock moves slowly,

The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open’d lips

Whitman looked at the mosaic that is America and saw a country that was, like him, vibrant and alive. His lust for life, and his love and compassion for all that he encounters, becomes contagious. He believes we are all connected, with one another and with one God:

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers

He passes no judgment, all men and women he encounters are created equal, regardless of their station in life:

It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,

I will not have a single person slighted or left away,

There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

Walt Whitman is a true man of the people, all people, and his fearless, open-hearted voice still resonates today. Some of my favorite passages from Leaves of Grass follow, with brief commentary,. Or to see the poem in its entirety, via the Poetry Foundation, click here.

Walt Whitman gulped life in big sips, his enthusiasm jumping off the page:

You sea! I resign myself to you also—I guess what you mean,

I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,

I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,

We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land,

Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,

Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.

He believed that men and women were created equal. This passage, written in the mid-1800s, was ahead of its time:

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,

And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,

And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

He wrote of the soul, seeing God as inhabiting us, as we inhabit God. If God is all powerful, so are we:

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,

And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,

And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,

And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud

He lived a full and active, but could also sit still and observe life:

I exist as I am, that is enough,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,

And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

Here, in a rare complaint about his fellow man, he finds solace in animals:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things

It is well-documented that Whitman was likely gay. He wrote at length about the male body, yet his writings capture a lustiness we all at some point share, regardless of our sexual orientation:

My lovers suffocate me,

Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,

Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night,

Crying by day Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging and chirping over my head,

Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush,

Lighting on every moment of my life

These are the very final words in Leaves of Grass, written when Whitman was close to death.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

And filter and fiber your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

Missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you.


I still have two copies of my new book, the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel, I’m giving away for free. These copies contain a few typos that have since been corrected. Want one? E-mail me at tomrapsas @ (without the spaces).

Revealing the mystical secrets of Kabbalah.


Nick Scheerbart via

Kabbalah is the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible. It has been said it can take decades to study and truly comprehend Kabbalah’s lessons. Fortunately, I found a short cut.

The author and religious scholar Daniel C. Matt studied Kabbalah for decades and condensed his knowledge into an easy-to-read book titled The Essential Kabbalah. Matt points out that the word kabbalah means “receiving” or “that which has been received.” And while it refers to knowledge being received through study, it also means that “if one is truly receptive, wisdom appears simultaneously, unprecedented, taking you by surprise.” Matt says that:

The spiritual seeker soon discovers that he or she is not exploring something “up there,” but rather the beyond that lies within.

I have no doubt that to truly master the lessons of Kabbalah takes years–but with the upmost respect for the tradition, and our purposes here, I’ve distilled Matt’s work down to several passages that had special meaning to me and grouped them by category.

You’ll note that Kabbalah tradition includes a practice that sounds very similar to meditation and centering prayer. It represents additional proof that there are common threads within all faiths, and that ultimately, we are trying to connect with the same God. (For a more in-depth look at Kabbalah, I recommend you pick up Matt’s book or his new writings on the Zorah.)

Lessons from Kabbalah.


  • When you contemplate the Creator, realize that his encampment extends beyond, infinitely beyond, and so, too, in front of you and behind you, east and west, north and south.
  • Be aware that God fashioned everything and is within everything. There is nothing else.
  • All your physical and mental powers and your essential being depend on the divine elements within. You are simply a channel for the divine attributes.


  • Select a special place where no one in the world can hear your voice. Be totally alone. Sit in one spot in the room or the loft, and do not reveal your secret to anyone.
  • As you prepare to speak with your Creator, to seek the revelation of his power, be careful to empty your mind of all mundane vanities.
  • If it is at night, light many candles, until your eyes shine brightly.
  • If your mind races, return to the place you were before the thought. Return to the site of oneness.
  • If you wish your intention to be true, imagine that you are light. All around you, in every corner and on every side, is light…a radiant light…up above, the light of the Presence. The light is unfathomable and endless.
  • Place in front of the eyes of your mind the letters of God’s name, as if they were written in Hebrew script.
  • Remember God and God’s love constantly.


  • Interpret what you hear in an uplifting manner, approximating it as best you can.
  • When you see that you have achieved a little, concentrate more deeply in your meditation, until you experience a pure spirit speaking within.
  • Search and discover the source of your soul, so that you can fulfill it and restore it to its source, it essence. The more you fulfill yourself, the closer you approach your authentic self.
  • The desire to act and work, the passion to create and to restore yourself, the yearning for silence and for the inner shout of joy—these all band together in your spirit, and you become holy.
  • When you train yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, you attain the quintessence of the human spirit…by training yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, the voice reveals itself to your mind as well.
  • When you desire to eat or drink, or to fulfill other worldly desires, focus your awareness on the love of God…elevate the physical desire to spiritual desire…draw out the holy spark that dwells within. You bring forth holy sparks from the material world. There is no greater path than this.
  • In the end, the Blessed Holy One will guide you on the path that it wishes and impart holiness to you. You are walking in the presence of God while being right here in the world. You become a dwelling place of the divine.

This post previously appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos. Click here to see my latest stories.

21 Simple Rules to Live By (by Mahatma Gandhi).


Gandhi, 1948, via Wikimedia Commons

This post originally appeared on my Patheos Wake Up Call column, 1/20/17.

Do you have a code or set of rules you live by? I often resort to my favorite authors and books for guidance, but I recently came across a short, but compelling 21-point list from a legendary figure that I’m going to put into my spiritual arsenal. It comes from Mahatma Gandhi.

First, some background: Gandhi was the leader of the Indian independence movement that challenged British rule during the 1930s and 1940s. Through nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi helped lead India to independence, inspiring civil rights movements around the world. He later worked to bridge the divide between Hindus and Muslims, an act that would lead to his assassination at the age of 78.

More than a political leader, Gandhi was also recognized as his country’s spiritual leader. He wrote that his way-of-thinking was inspired by the Hindu holy book the Bhagavad Gita. He first became acquainted with “the Gita” in 1888 and he says that it taught him how “a perfected man is to be known.” They were in effect, his rules to live by.

Gandhi believed that all reality is “an incarnation of God.” There was no higher goal in life than to become like God. He believed it was the only way one can truly be at peace and “the only, ambition worth having.” To reach this state of self-realization, it required “desireless action…by dedicating all activities to God, by surrendering oneself to Him body and soul.”

This idea of “desireless action” means that as one goes through life, one must act but not be tied to outcomes. It’s a philosophy perhaps best encapsulated by the line from the Kipling poem If, encouraging us to “meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same”. Gandhi phrases the sentiment like this:

Do your allotted work but renounce its fruit—be detached and act—have no desire for reward, and act. He who gives up action, falls. He who gives up only the reward, rises.

What follows is a passage by Gandhi that addresses what it means to be a true devotee of the Gita. I think you will find its message is pertinent to people of all faiths, and something we all can and should aspire to be. While it appears in his writings as a complete paragraph, I have taken the liberty to break it down line by line.

21 Simple Rules to Live By. 

A true devotee lives his life:

  1. Jealous of no one,

  2. A fount of mercy,

  3. Who is without egotism,

  4. Who is selfless,

  5. Who treats alike cold and heat, happiness and misery,

  6. Who is always forgiving,

  7. Who is always contented,

  8. Whose resolutions are firm,

  9. Who has dedicated mind and soul to God,

  10. Who causes no dread,

  11. Who is not afraid of others,

  12. Who is free from exultation, sorrow, and fear,

  13. Who is pure,

  14. Who is versed in action and yet remains unaffected by it,

  15. Who renounces all fruits of action, good or bad,

  16. Who treats friend and enemy alike,

  17. Who is untouched by respect or disrespect,

  18. Who is not puffed up by praise,

  19. Who does not go under when people speak ill of him,

  20. Who loves silence and solitude,

  21. Who has a disciplined mind.

Spiritual Wisdom in A Light-Hearted, Entertaining Fable: Thaddeus Squirrel #BookReview and #AuthorInterview

Thanks to Becca Chopra who reviewed my book for her “Inspirational Book Blog”. She also interviewed me and had some great questions that tell the story behind the story. The review and interview are posted below:

Becca's Inspirational Book Blog

thaddeus_squirrel_frontHow does passion lead to purpose? In Tom Rapsas’ new book, Thaddeus Squirrel: A Spiritual Fable, the main character realizes that working day and night foraging for acorns, more than he would ever need, is meaningless to him. He ends up running away from his tribe of squirrels as he’s not accepted for his difference of opinion. On his journey, he is gravely injured by a dog, then cared for by a group of chipmunks who have wisdom to share.

The chipmunk who saved his life, Sol, is a sage old guy who starts offering Thaddeus new questions to peruse and new ideas to consider… ultimately, that his life has meaning, and it’s up to him to find that meaning within himself.

Sol says, “I’m going to do more than tell you about the meaning of life. I’ll show you how to find it, first-hand… the meaning for you may…

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My new book for young adults, the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel.

thaddeus_squirrel_frontI recently published a new book, the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. It’s a book that was over 10 years in the making which requires a short explanation.

When my daughter was a little girl, I used to tell her fairy tales at night, some from books, but many that came from my own imagination. About that time, I started traveling a lot for work, which made it tough to tell her these stories–though I did the best I could, sometimes telling them over the phone, other times mailing her the stories to read on her own.

It struck me that I should publish one of these tales as a book. Only work, and life, continued to get in the way. Every few months, I would go back to work on the book, only to be sidetracked yet again. At one point, a year went by without me even looking at it.

The funny thing about the book though is that as I was writing it, my target group of one, my daughter, was growing older. So the story began to grow a little more elaborate with deeper thoughts on spirituality and the role of God in our lives. And by the time I completed it, the final product was no longer for children, but for teens and young adults.

You can find the book at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions–which brings me to an important announcement: In my haste to publish the book before my self-imposed deadline of 12/31/16, the first release contained several typos. The typos have now been fixed, but as of 2/20/17 I have 2 remaining copies that contain a few small errors. I’m giving them away. Be one of the first two people to contact me at with your address, and I’ll ship you a free copy.

“Dear God, I’m doing the best I can.” (Remembering Huston Smith)

To readers of The Inner Way: First, a sincere thank you for reading. Second, as some of you know I write a regular weekly column at Patheos called Wake Up Call. My duties there have kept me from updating this site as often as I would like. In the future, I’ll be posting a story-of-the-month here once monthly. For more regular updates, you can sign-up for the Wake Up Call newsletter in the right hand column of this page.


Huston Smith, 2005, via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the great religious scholar of our time died recently in Berkeley, California. His name was Huston Smith and he lived until the age of 97.

I know Smith primarily through the book The World’s Religions. Originally titled The Religions of Man, it has sold over 3 million copies since it was first published in 1958. There is a well-worn copy sitting on my bookshelf and I refer to it when I need a quick lesson or refresher on the beliefs of other faiths, whether it be Taoism, Sufism or the primal religions of Australia.

Smith wrote over a dozen books and what made him such a good writer was his ability to take complex belief systems and explain them in simple terms. But he did more than just write about religion—Smith himself practiced within many faiths and religions, in what some call “interspirituality”, believing that all the world’s religions were compatible.

I’m sure he would have agreed with the contemporary scholar Mirabai Starr who believes in “the oneness at the heart of all religious traditions.” Starr does not differentiate between the faiths. She seeks “…the source of Love itself. I catch whiffs of this great beauty in every one of the world’s spiritual traditions.”

Huston Smith led an adventurous spiritual life, experiencing first-hand the many ways in which we connect with the Divine. While he was a church-going Methodist, he celebrated the Sabbath with a daughter who had converted to Judaism. He prayed in Arabic to Mecca five times a day. His spiritual resume, as reported in the NY Times, also included the following:

  • As a college student, he became a missionary and was later ordained a Methodist minister. He soon realized that he had no desire to “Christianize the world,” he would rather teach than preach.
  • As a philosophy teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he ate psilocybin mushrooms with Timothy Leary more than once, reporting that “he had a personal experience with God.”
  • He meditated with Tibetan Buddhist monks, practiced yoga with Hindu holy men and whirled with ecstatic Sufi Islamic dervishes. He helped introduce the Dalai Lama to Americans.

But maybe the most thought-provoking thing I read in the obituary of Huston Smith was this: His favorite prayer was written by a 9-year-old boy whose mother had found it scribbled on a piece of paper beside his bed. It read:

Dear God, I’m doing the best I can.

At first glance, I wondered how this child’s prayer could be the favorite of a man so versed in the world’s religious traditions. After all, Smith’s entire life was dedicated to connecting with God and helping others do the same. But it dawned on me that for all his accomplishments, Smith maintained a modest view of his relationship with the Creator.

This prayer was Smith’s humble way of telling God, and perhaps reminding himself, that he was not perfect or knew for certain if he had achieved his life-long quest to learn and teach us all he could about the many ways we access the Divine. The prayer also reminds me of the words of John Templeton, as I believe they apply to Smith:

As we become more willing to release the personal ego, we open the door to greater communication with God. One who is humble and grateful for all God-given blessings opens the door to heaven and earth now.

We too might take Huston Smith’s prayer to heart during our own moments of meditation and contemplation. Dear God, I’m doing the best I can. It is a reminder that while there is much that we do in our attempt to live a full and rich spiritual life, there is much that can still be done.

I recently published the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. You can learn about it here.

Wise words from Canada—and the smartest guy you never heard of.


By Provincial Archives of Alberta, via Wikimedia Commons

This story first appeared July 27, 2016, at Patheos where I write a regular weekly column called Wake Up Call.

I’ve honored the deceased recently, including my buddy Terry, a good man who passed away at 55 from a sudden heart attack, and my wise expat friend from France, John, who passed away in April. Now it’s time to honor the living—a guy who I feared might have joined Terry and John.

There’s a blogger from Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada by the name of Ivon Prefontaine. He gave me a jolt a few days ago when I suddenly realized I had not received a blog update from him in several weeks. For a few years now, I’ve looked forward to his regular e-mail missives and when I went to his Web site, Teacher as Transformer, there were no signs of activity since late-May.

It didn’t seem right, someone who blogged frequently to suddenly go silent, so I reached out to Ivon—and discovered he is alive and well. He informed me he is busy finishing a book, which has taken up a lot of his time, so had put his blog on hold.

Ivon is a writer and fan of poetry, neither of which I can say about myself, and he regularly shares poems he admires. But what pulls me into his blog posts aren’t the poems themselves, but his writings about them, which are full of great depth and insight. For me, they put a context around the words, and are often are more illuminating than the poetry itself.

Without further adieu, here are four examples of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings from his Web site:

Freedom to Choose

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space there is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed a school of psychiatry called logotherapy, which is the search for meaning in life. He used his experiences as a Holocaust survivor to help inform his findings.

Humans choose their responses and seek life’s meaning. When we lose our meaning in life, we drift, feeling rudderless and without mooring. What keeps us grounded are the choices we make in life and the meaning we find in life. For example, becoming a teacher, a farmer, a parent, etc. gives life purpose and calls us to take action.

We express who we are through responding to the continuous calling, the vocation, that we find through various meaningful roles. When and if we find our life’s meaning, it allows us to make a difference in the world, for other sentient beings, and for the non-sentient elements of the world. We care for all aspects of the world and feel connected to it.

Thomas Merton suggested some humans find their calling and others search throughout life, unable to find it. Perhaps, it is they do not hear what calls them and are unable to respond. Mindfulness and silence open spaces to hear the calls that give our lives meaning and make living meaningful.


 I sometimes feel lost in the world, without bearings. David Wagoner counseled that when we feel lost, to stop and listen to the world, as if it were the forest and a powerful stranger able to speak to us.

When I stop and pray, I ask someone for help, but, if I rush on, without listening, the prayer cannot be answered. I pose a question that I cannot answer. Prayer is not just speaking. My heart opens and receives what is returned to me.

Is it in the form of words? Or, is it the gentle breath that is hardly perceptible? When I am mindful and listen to listen, I intuitively sense differences. Mindfulness becomes an attentive and sensitive way of life, as opposed to just happening.

Still Point

Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.

What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry’s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.

My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.

 Leaving home

for work

each day

I hear the trees

say “What’s your hurry?”

Rooted, they

don’t understand

how in my world

we have to rush

to keep in step.

I haven’t even time

to stop and tell them

how on weekends, too,

schedules wait

like nets.

It’s only on a sick day

when I have to venture out

to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,

there in all their fullness

in a world unpatterned

full of moments,

full of spaces,

every space

a choice.

This day

has not

been turned yet

on the lathe

this day

lies open, light

and shadow. Breath

fills the body easily.

I step

into a world

waiting like

a quiet lover.

Prayer of St. Francis

Kathy and I celebrate our 40th anniversary this weekend and we are on our way to Alaska. We used The Prayer of St. Francis (Peace Prayer) as a reading for our wedding mass. As well, we have an inexpensive plaque that sits on a dresser in our bedroom. My mother gave it to us many years ago. When we celebrated my mother’s funeral mass a year ago, we read the prayer, as well.

When I was in Spokane for extended periods, I posted a copy of the prayer on my bedroom wall. It serves as a daily reminder of what we are capable of as humans in relationship with one another, the world, and God in our moment-to-moment living.

The prayer is about the travails and their rewards that we undertake. When I think about love, I recall Thomas Merton‘s saying we call it falling in love for a reason. We open ourselves, risk being hurt, and the rewards are worthwhile. We mind, care, and attend to people and things.

 Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, the truth;

Where there is doubt, the faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 To see more of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings, you can visit his Web site here.

60-Second Inspiration: The Value of Praying for Nothing.


Arron Burden vis

Each morning, I say the prayer of gratitude. Along with my early morning run, it’s one of the most important things I do all day. I give thanks for all the good things in my life—my family, my health, my home, the new day, and whatever new person or event that has come into my life.

But there’s another prayer I’ve recently added to the mix and I think it’s equally important. In the title I’ve referred to it as the Prayer for Nothing but it’s really The Prayer for the Best Possible Outcome. Here’s the thinking behind it:

We do not have crystal balls and cannot see the future. Yet, we often pray for things. We pray that we’ll get that new job or promotion, we pray that we’ll get that new home or maybe that a new relationship will blossom. But what we don’t know is if that thing we pray for will really make our lives better.

Will the new job end up requiring late nights and weekends that costs us precious family time? Will the new home come with issues that we didn’t notice at first glance? Will the new significant other keep us from connecting with the person we really should be with?

What I’m proposing is that we instead pray for the best possible outcome. That means not praying for anything specific to happen, only for what is best for us and our lives. This takes the decision making out of our hands and puts it in the hands of a higher power.

This follows the lead of the great American spiritual philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. He believed there was a subtle order of divinity that lay behind our everyday world and that it served us a source of knowledge and power. Through prayer, we tap into this source and can receive the guidance we need in life. According to Emerson:

A little consideration of what takes place around us every day would show us that a higher power than that of our will regulates events; that our painful labors are unnecessary and fruitless; that only in our easy, simple, spontaneous action are we strong.

The early 20th Century “New Thought” philosopher Ralph Waldo Trine, writing about 50 years after Emerson, has similar advice. That if we allow the “Divine Power” to work through us, we will be directed to the best possible outcomes. In his words:

Know that the ever-conscious realization of the essential oneness of each life with the Divine Life is the highest of all knowledge, and that to open ourselves as opportune channels for the Divine Power to work in and through us is the open door to the highest attainment, and to the best there is in life.

For more on prayer, please see my story “Three prayers that can help you daily, starting today.” Or to read about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s take on how we can receive answers to our prayers, see: “You already know how to talk to God. Here’s how to listen.

This story previously appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos.

Why Spirituality is a Better Escape Than Drinking, Sex or Drugs.


Joanie Cahill via

What’s your favorite form of “escape”? Personally, I’m a big fan of craft beers. In fact, I’m sipping a Flying Dog Mango Habanero IPA as I write this and it tastes pretty darn delicious. But I fully realize that drinking has a funny, often detrimental effect on some people.

I recall once having a conversation with an EST-trained co-worker sipping a diet soda at a party. I was aware she was a recovering alcoholic and asked her what would happen if she had a beer or glass of wine. She told me it would lead to another and another—and later that night I would find her on a corner uptown trying to buy crack. I thought she was kidding, she wasn’t, and I abruptly changed the subject.

There’s a spirituality writer by the name of Chris Grosso who has had his own share of “overindulgence” problems, which he has chronicled in a couple of books including Everything Mind. He writes about the man he once was—a guy constantly looking for the next drink, the next high, ruining family and personal relationships along the way.

After he hits an especially craggy rock bottom, Grosso comes to the realization that a deeper engagement with his spiritual practice is the only way out. When it comes to drugs or drinking or sex, or even less discussed addictions like online gaming or porn, he concludes:

No activity will ever provide a lasting source of peace, happiness or contentment like spirituality will.

For me, the key part of this statement is “a lasting source”. And as much as I personally like the buzz provided by a few high-octane craft beers, it’s something I primarily reserve for the weekend, and not an activity I can turn to each moment of each day for solace. (Instead, I use these quick stress releases.)

You might also wonder what Grosso means by “spirituality”. The author favors Meister Eckhardt’s definition that “to be spiritual is to be awake and alive”. For him, this includes any activities that “wake me up” like running, meditation and spiritual reading, from the heady writings of Ken Wilber to the dark poetry of Charles Bukowski.

Grosso stresses again and again the need for us to find our own truth and explore what spiritual activities resonate for us. He writes that “there are a number of different ways, paths, beliefs that are available” and that the alternative is “a life lived grasping at external objects for fleeting happiness”.

So how does one avoid the “grasping”? If you want to stay grounded, and live life alert and aware, the key is to develop a regular spiritual practice. Personally, I have a morning ritual that covers some of the same bases as Grosso, as well as acts as simple as spending a few moments alone in quiet contemplation in the early morning hours with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee.

The bottom line is you’ve got to take action. Drinking and drugging and having sex are activities—and if you feel like you’re overly dependent on any one of them, you need to curtail the activity and fill the void with an alternate diversion. Toward that end, Grosso cites this call-to-arms by Ken Wilber:

Nobody will save you but you. You have to engage your own contemplative development. Spiritual development is not a matter of mere belief. It is a matter of actual, prolonged difficult growth, and merely professing belief is meaningless and without impact. Reality is not interested in your beliefs; it’s interested in your actions.

If you don’t have a spiritual practice, that means starting your own today. You may want to follow the lead of my colleague Thomas Moore who has put together an inspiring 10-point guide to starting your own practice. Use it as guidance, but remember, as Grosso reminds us, we must always create our own unique path, our own individual way of finding the God within us.

In parting, here are three smart rules to live by each day that I culled from Grosso’s writings:

  1. Learn to live mindfully with the acceptance of whatever life hands you.
  2. Stop to see the beauty, wonder and interconnectedness of all things.
  3. Cultivate a greater sense of loving-kindness for yourself as well as others.