A dear friend emailed me this morning that Sathya Sai Baba died yesterday morning in India.  I was sad at the news and then, almost immediately,  I felt peace.  He was Love on earth and is still Love now.

Sai Baba connects my friend and me in that we both have been in his presence; we both have felt the love that everyone feels when they are with him; and we both have experienced a healing, either of ourselves or someone close to us as a result of our contact with him.  This is a story of the healing that I didn’t even know I was receiving for myself – and, because of a letter my friend asked me to bring to Baba – a healing for her daughter.

It was 2003.  That was the year that I heard of Sai Baba from Landon Carter, one of the original EST leaders and someone who had lived at Baba’s ashram in India for six or seven months when he was younger.  I remember being intrigued when Landon said, “I have never felt such love around anyone the way I felt it around Sai Baba.”   Curious, I went to a Google map and looked up where Sai Baba’s ashrams were.   I said to myself, “When I go to India, I will go see him.”

At the time, I had no plans to go to India, I had no resources to go to India, and, if I did have the financial resources to go anywhere, India would not be the place I would have chosen.

Shortly after that, I got a job at a mens’ designer firm that I knew was partly owned by an Indian company, but didn’t think much about that.  After working there for about four months, the owners told me that I would go to India in November to work on the private label program for the company.

I was going to Bangalore.  I knew that Baba’s main ashram was in Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of Peace), about 3 hours Northeast of Bangalore.  I wondered how I would get there.  India is not an easy country to get around in.  I thought, “Something will happen.  I will get there.”

My travel to India was long and arduous.  I became sick in the Amsterdam airport as a result of the Maleria medication I was taking, and  spent the next two hours in the airport mini-hospital.  I missed my plane to Mumbai.

I was so sick, I could not travel until the next day.  I wished I could have done something in Amsterdam (my first time there) but was so ill,  all I could do was sleep until the next morning, with the doctor calling me at the hotel every 2-3 hours to see how I was doing.  I’ve since learned that I had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the Malaria medication.

I was able to get a flight to Delhi the next day.  I arrived in the middle of the night, only to find out that, in order to fly to Bangalore, I had to take a taxi from the international terminal to the domestic terminal.  Not so difficult, you say?

It was a bumpy ride on a back road in a tiny cab with a smelly, turbaned Indian who spoke no English.  It was 3:00 in the morning.  As we drove in the pitch-dark night through what seemed like a long, dry country road with no other cars on it, I arrived at an empty terminal building with two gate doors.  I paid my taxi driver and got out.  I was too tired to be scared — not from the ride in the dark and not of the empty terminal — so I curled up on a filthy seat in the waiting room and slept until the 6AM flight to Bangalore was called.

This was my week in India: one culturally-taxing event after another – during the dry season when everything is dusty and dirty and tin huts line the sides of the roads with dirty, barefoot swamis praying before home-made alters as the noisy traffic rolls by, horns blaring, dust swirling, beggars screaming for your attention and your hand-out.  I kept the windows closed on those rides, locked inside the equally dirty cab with three or four of my other co-workers, traveling from hotel to factory, to and fro every day.

We only felt safe eating in the hotel.  Even so, I had physical reactions to the food.  I never actually got sick to my stomach, but something in the spices made my blood pressure spike to a dangerous level and I had to have the doctor come to the hotel no less than 5 times.  He prescribed medication and, if I wasn’t well enough to go into work, he would come back in the afternoon to check on me and take my blood pressure again.  Blood pressure medication escalated to anti-anxiety medication and he ordered me to bed.  Fortunately, those were the days the samples were being made so I didn’t need to be at the factory every moment.  Still, it added to my fear and tentativeness about India.  I wished I could go home and sleep in my own bed.

By the end of the week, I was ready to leave India, but had another week to go.  I told one of the people in the factory that I wanted to go visit Sai Baba, but had no idea how to do that.  I noticed a change in the people with whom I worked the moment I mentioned his name.

On Saturday before the only day I had off, this one woman with whom I  had shared my desire to visit Baba  told me that she was a devotee of his and she would see what she could do.  She came back a few hours later to tell me that the owner of the factory had offered his car and driver to take me to Puttaparthi, where Prasanthi Nilayam is, if she could come with me.  Of course!

We woke up at 3AM to start the journey.  It is not very far in kilometers, but the journey is on dirt roads through a barren part of India, so the trip took over 3 hours.  We arrived about a half hour before “darshan” was supposed to start.

Darshan.  How do I explain this?  “Darshan” is to be in the presence of a holy person.  It is supposed to be the most incredible experience one can have.   I had heard of the “darshan junkies” who travel from city to city, around the world, to be in the presence of a holy person in order to experience the “rush” of that experience.  I was ambivalent.  I mean, really?

I arrived at the ashram at the first light of dawn.  As I walked through the gates, I could see hundreds of pairs of shoes.  Oh, No!  I was going to have to take my shoes off and walk around this dirty place barefoot?    Yes, that’s exactly what I was going to have to do.

As we headed to the temple to line up for Darshan, I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom.  I had been in the car for 3 ½ hours already, and once we went into the open-air temple, we would not be allowed out – or, if we were, how would I know how to find my companion?  There were thousands of devotees there!

The bathroom was primitive.  Open holes in the ground with plastic pitchers by each one to wash down the urine and – well, whatever…. And, I’m barefoot and the entire floor is wet from all the water being sloshed about.  I was disgusted and upset and wanted to run out of the place and head back to Bangalore!

But, I made it.  I took a breath, did what there was to do, and walked out to join my fellow “devotee” to head to the line where they wouldn’t allow us to take anything into the temple, not even a water bottle!

I followed a brightly sarong-ed old woman who could not have been more than 4 ft tall.  She kept throwing me dirty looks every time they pushed us closer together in the line.  I don’t know how, but I always smiled back – while continuing to think, “What on earth am I doing here?”

They lined us up inside the temple VERY close together and then gestured that we were to sit down.  Right there.  On the hard tiled and cement floor.  No cushions, no pads, no nothing.  I knew that my delicate Western behind, hips, and knees were not going to like this – and I was right.

I sat down and curled my legs and feet to one side.  In the process of doing so, I accidentally touched the older woman with my foot.  The feet are the lowest of the low in India, perhaps only surpassed by the left hand (the bathroom hand).  She growled and yelled and pulled her sari tightly around her and brought her legs closer into her body.

“Wow!” I thought, “This is a spiritual devotee of a famous guru?”  I was surprised at how “un-spiritual” she seemed to be, but what did I know?   I wasn’t sure of anything at that moment except that I had probably made a grave error by coming here.

We sat and waited for a long time.  Baba is notorious for being late for Darshan.  The crowd grumbled and fidgeted.  People glared and tried to pull away, except that there was nowhere to pull away to!  Monkeys swung from the rafters, gibbering their monkey talk at the crowd below.  Birds flew in and out of the temple, chirping and screaming their hysterical screeching at all the people.

In the distance, I heard the sound of a car starting up.  Baba had suffered a fall and had to be driven to and from Darshan every morning and afternoon.  The shift in the crowd was palpable. What happened next would be forever burned into my memory — and into my Being.

The chanting started and then the movement – back and forth, hands raised up in  front of each devotee, singing out at the top of their lungs, “Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba Om” over and over again, until the entire crowd was raising up on their knees, undulating as one body, like a snake curling through the crowd, chanting, chanting, louder and louder…

His car drove into the temple and I saw Baba’s face – he was looking my way – and that was it.  I was washed over by a love so pure that everything else faded away.  It was the first time in my life that I went from worry and fear to utter Joy in  a moment!  The tears ran down my cheeks and I had no tissues, so I was wiping them away, making mud of my blusher and foundation and I didn’t care.  I curled up onto my knees and joined the sensuous snake, arms raised in devotion and supplication, “Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba Om!”

I looked around and everyone looked beautiful.  Everything was Joy and I felt such love for all of them.  I caught the eye of the old woman and she was transformed – her face was radiant – and she smiled at me with tears in her eyes.  I returned the Joy, the tears, the cries of devotion.

Baba went inside the building to meet with the people who had appointments.  The rest of us sat outside and watched for glimpses of him – Swami would come to the door every now and then and wave to us – to more chanting and devotion!  I remember that he was always smiling.

I looked around – how beautiful it all was!  Why didn’t I notice that before?

I sat there for hours, speaking to a woman who had come from South Africa just to be in Baba’s  presence – she slept in the sparse accommodations, on a cement floor with no pillow, for $2 a night.  She had been there a week.

The joy I felt was astounding.  I didn’t want to leave.  My hips stopped hurting even as I sat longer and longer on the hard floor, under the monkeys swinging from rafter to rafter.  I looked up at them in pure bliss – I would not have it any other way.

After two hours, Baba got back into his car and was driven out of the Temple.  I was too joyful to feel sad that he left.   I was in the after-glow of Baba’s darshan for hours .

I didn’t want to leave so I talked my companion into getting some food and having a picnic on the grounds.

I bought some Vibhuti, the sacred ash that Baba manifests out of thin air.  I bought 5 bags.  One for my friend and her daughter and the rest for anyone else who needed healing.  I saw very sick people walk into Baba’s temple that morning, only to see them later on, sitting on the grass  — with color in their cheeks and laughing and walking and singing.  Say what you will, those were miracles of healing.

I was healed, too – healed of my complaints about dirt, dust, bathrooms with plastic pitchers, barefoot gurus, and people touching feet.   Everyone is beautiful.  Life is Bliss.

That was the day I fell in love with India.

After my life-threatening experience in Amsterdam and my high blood-pressure the week before, I suddenly had no physical complaints at all!

I have not been seriously ill since then.

We found our driver who had been frantically trying to find us, although not frantic enough to miss Darshan.  As we walked the grounds, I remembered the letter that my friend had asked me to give to Baba.  That was not possible in the temple, but each of the postal boxes was only for mail to Swami.  I slipped the letter inside the box.

I drove back to Bangalore in a dreamy state of perfect peace.

I came back to the states and gave my friend her bag of Vibhuti and told her I had mailed the letter to Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam.  She was happy.

I forgot about that.  Many months later, my friend told me that her daughter had been miraculously healed and was disabled no more.

I was raised a Christian and am one to this day.  I DO have unorthodox ideas about what that means, but I know one thing.  People followed Christ because he was pure Love – it must have been a blessing to be in his presence — the ultimate darshan!  People like Christ, like Baba, like Krishna, like Buddha are Avatars —  and they offset much of the evil in the world.  I would have loved to have been in Christ’s presence the way I was in Baba’s presence.

Then again, I am – every day of my life.  People who are only Love live on forever whenever we choose Love in the moment.

“Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba, Om”

Deliciously yours in the Love that is All, Linda

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I was looking forward to receiving Marianne Williamson’s new book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” to review for Hay House Publishing.  As a student of “A Course in Miracles”, the spiritual self-study program that Marianne herself turned me on to many years ago, I had a feeling that this was not going to be your typical weight-loss book – and I was right.

To begin, I’ve been on a diet since last May and lost 16 pounds doing that.  I was so proud of myself for making it through most of the Christmas holidays without gaining anything back – I thought I had this “monkey” off my back for good.

Alas, that was not so.  At the end of the Christmas holidays, my ex-husband and wonderful friend called to tell me he was getting married in the new year.  I never expected my grieving reaction until I realized that I never mourned my marriage the way I needed to.  January started that time – and, in the two months since, I’ve gained back 8 of the 16 pounds I lost.

I received Marianne’s book right in the midst of all the pain of my long over-due grief.

My original plan — before I found myself plunged into my unexpected despair — was to read it and review it here on this blog.    If I could take something on for myself – Well, then, I would, but I really didn’t think I needed it as much as someone else might need it.

How wrong could I have been?  I needed this book to come the very moment it did!   As spiritual as I think I am, the fact is that circumstances can and do throw me for a loop – and send me right back into thinking the old disempowering thoughts about myself that get me to start eating without thinking:  “I’m not good enough,” “I was a terrible wife,” “Who would want me? I’m so selfish”.  Before I knew it, I re-gained the 8 pounds I’d lost!

“A Course in Weight Loss” addresses these very issues of how we disempower ourselves, how we hate how we look, how we feel about ourselves when we don’t feel good about ourselves.  Bottom line?  Marianne’s book was exactly what I needed to appear in my life!

This is a book that is definitely a “course” – a step-by-step approach to – a diet?  NO!  The approach is to assist us in being willing to take on that which, as “A Course in Miracles” says, is our only problem – we think we are separate from God.  It is a step-by-step approach to have us remember Who we are: a beautiful, perfect child of God — and, as such, everything we need is right here already.  We need only remember Who we are.

Marianne’s instructions are graceful and loving:  to build an altar to ourselves and that which we know to be the Divine within us.  Then, Marianne  guides us:  to enhance our altars as a symbol of being in touch with our own spirit,   buying ONE piece of carefully and lovingly chosen piece of fruit to put on the altar,  to write  letters to the self we are leaving behind so as to transform to the Self we are becoming, and to become aware of those triggers that send us right back into our pain.  It is nothing less than a spiritual journey into our own hearts and minds to find the Real Self, the thin and whole spiritual Self that has been there all along.

Marianne doesn’t hold back, that’s for sure.  There is one chapter called, “Exit the Alone Zone” that I am positive she wrote just for ME! I spend a lot of time alone – I work alone in my home office every day – and I always feel a bit lonely about that.  This book made me realize that I – or the ego part of me – orchestrated that”alone-ness”  in order to keep me separate from others – as separate as I sometimes feel when I forget my spiritual path, when I forget that “alone” is an illusion that I have created.

Well, now it’s time to create something new!

There are beautiful prayers at the end of each chapter that  moved me to tears, each one inviting God in to heal us, to heal our un-healed wounds – as only He can do.

I finished reading the book through once, and now I have started it again, beginning with my altar in my window: a beautiful Buddha and a flower and a picture of a laughing Christ.  As “A Course in Miracles” resonated for me as my spiritual path, Marianne’s “Course in Weight Loss” is resonating for me as the path to healing all my wounds, not only weight, but money, relationship, and career.  That is a plan that I am joyfully taking on!

I want to end with one of Marianne’s beautiful prayers – the prayer that is at the end of Lesson 15, “Exit the Alone Zone.”  To me, this is the essence of so much of this wonderful book:

“Dear God, Please melt the walls that separate me from others, imprisoning me within myself.

Please heal my wounded places and free my heart to love.

Help me connect to others that I might isolate no more.

I know, dear God, that when I am alone, I fear;

and when I fear, I self-destruct.

What I suffer now and have suffered before,

dear God, may I suffer no more.

Amen”

And, to that, my own  “Hallelujah!”

Deliciously yours in the Sacred Self that we all are,  Linda

This is Marianne Williamson, a New York Times best-selling author several times over.  Her book, “A Return to Love” is a spiritual classic and widely considered by many to be the cliff notes to ‘A Course in Miracles'”.  Marianne is an internationally known speaker and teacher.  You can visit her site:  www.marianne.com to see where she is speaking in your area.

Here is the link to Hay House publishing where you can purchase Marianne’s book:

<a title="Hay House Link to Marianne's Book" href="“><a href=”http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&offerid=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0″><IMG border=0 src=”http://affiliate.hayhouse.com/IndivProd/978-1-4019-2152-1.gif&#8221; ></a><IMG border=0 width=1 height=1 src=”http://ad.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/show?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&bids=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0&#8243; >

Disclosure:  I received Marianne Williamson’s book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” for free from Hay House Publishing.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

This is how it goes, living in New York City:

I opened my Facebook page one night about 8PM and saw that my friend, Peri Lyons, chanteuse extraordinaire, was doing her cabaret show down in Greenwich Village that night.  I wanted to go.

I called another friend, Janey, and asked her if she was up for some sultry singing and could she be ready in – Oh, say? —  5 minutes?   She could.

We met outside Caffe Vivaldi at Bleecker and Jones Streets and got ourselves a table inside.  The café is a tiny place with an eclectic crowd — fitting because Peri, herself, is many styles and many tastes and many charms  (she sings songs such as her own “Mrs. DeSade Explains”, written from the point of view of the wife of the Marquis)  with an altogether mellifluous voice — dulcet tones mixed with sensuous self-embrace that led Janey to remark, “Wow!  She is the distinction, ‘temptress’.”    And, so she is…

Peri is also a psychic with mystical powers.  On her break, she came to sit with us. She touched my hand and declared that I would be in a relationship by November of this year.  I don’t ordinarily look forward to the onset of winter, but I must admit to a certain anticipation of this year’s late fall and what that will bring.  Peri is known for her accurate predictions.

Janey and I left at around midnight after a totally delightful evening.  She walked me to the subway and then headed on home to Soho.

Years ago, I never rode the subway late at night.  I was afraid.   Now, I find it the most interesting time.  One never knows what will happen on the subway.  You can choose to be fearful or you can choose to be open to the magic of the below-ground in Manhattan.

First, you have to figure out where you’re going.  NYC subways are notorious for announcing – once you are on them – that they are not going where you think they are going.  That night was no different.

Announcer:  “This ‘E’ train will be running on the  ‘F’ track to Queens.  If you want to continue on the ‘E’ train route in Manhattan, get off at the next stop and take the ‘V’ train to 53rd and Lexington and…”.    God help the subway novice!

I got off at the next stop to find the “V” train which would take me three blocks from my apartment rather than ride the “F” train to 63rd and Lexington – a good 11 blocks from my home.  I followed the underground labyrinth up stairs and down stairs to get myself onto the “V” train platform.

As I waited for the train, I heard music drift from further down the platform… Lyrical acoustic guitar strains from long ago,  Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” that I have alternately loved and hated, depending on where I’ve been in my life:

“When she gets there, she knows if the stores are all closed,  with a word she can get what she came for…”

I was mesmerized.  I started walking towards the music, past the people on the platform, young people with hats and bottles, coming home – or going to – a party, the melody luring me on…

“And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune. Then the piper will lead us to reason…”

I felt as if I was in some strange movie, floating past little snippets of life in the city; a mother with a sleeping baby in a stroller and another curled in under her neck,  moving towards the music as Odysseus to the sirens’ song…

“And a new day will dawn for those who stand long and the forests will echo with laughter…”

I pushed through a crowd standing around the singer, close enough to pay him homage (he was very good), yet far enough away because he was dirty and strange looking, with a curly, matted beard, wearing a torn, brown tweed coat on a warm day, and an open, red velvet-lined guitar case at his feet.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on…”

Out of all the people around him – quite a few for almost 1 in the morning – he turned and looked right at me.  I couldn’t help but look back.

“Your head is humming and it won’t go in case you don’t know,  the piper’s calling you to join him…”

I moved out of the ring of people surrounding the musician – the dirty, bedraggled, red- ringlets-beard of a man who was staring at me as he was singing.  I took out a wad of dollar bills.

“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know:  Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.”

I leaned over, still looking at him, and put the crumpled bills in the guitar case.

A train was barreling into the station, almost — but not quite — drowning out the shift to the louder electronic guitar that is the latter part of “Stairway..”.    I glanced over to see that it was the “V” train I was waiting for.

I looked back at the strange musician.

“And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last.  When all are one and one is all, yeah, to be a rock and not to roll.”

I turned and stepped through the subway train doors.  I crossed the car and sat down facing out to the man singing.  He was still looking at me.

“And she’s buying a stairway….to heaven.”

The train started out of the station.  I was shaking.  Not from fear – I’m not afraid in New York City.

I felt touched by something.

When I arrived at my stop, I got out of the train and climbed the stairs up out of the station to the dark night above-ground.  I took a deep breath of what passes for fresh air here.

I couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Down the street from the subway stop is the police precinct for my neighborhood.  Outside the door, a young girl with long dark hair, all dressed up, was having her picture taken by a man and another girl standing next to him.  I stopped to allow them to get the shot.  I heard the camera click,  and then he smiled at me to pass.  As I walked by, he said:

“We just bailed her out of jail!”  They looked happy.  I smiled back and turned to give her a thumbs-up.  She threw her head back in laughter and waved at me.

There’s a 24-hour Korean deli on the corner of my block.  The night’s adventure made me hungry, and I stopped in to get a cup of my favorite Ben and Jerry’s pistachio ice cream.  A taste of heaven if ever there was one.

As I walked the last steps to my apartment, I thought about the evening and how everything in my life is a blessing — because I choose to see it that way.  Heaven is anywhere — and everywhere — you want it to be.

“Oooo, it makes me wonder…”

Deliciously yours in the Possibility of it All, Linda

“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” …Helen Keller

The song in the story above is “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin from the 1971 album, “LED ZEPPELIN IV”, written by guitarist, Jimmy Page,  and  vocalist, Robert Plant.  It was never released as a single.  It is considered by many as the best rock song of all time, and Jimmy Page’s guitar solo, the best guitar solo of all time.  Here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8.

To the left is the most extraordinary and talented singer/songwriter, Peri Lyons.    She also writes a blog on her observations, called “The Ampelopsis Diaries” at www.MissPeriLyons.blogspot.com,  which —  I warn you  — do not read unless you are in the mood to laugh so hard that bladder-control may actually become a serious issue.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

peaceful-viewinCentralParkAfter 9/11, it got personal….

In the aftermath of those days of serving at the armory, and those nights of writing about it to all my friends, I was left alone with my own fears… 

Before September 11th, I had been interviewing for a job.  It had looked good for a few weeks.  On the Friday after the towers went down, I received a call that they were putting the job on hold.  

During the busy days, I would forget that I had no job, no means of support, and the only thing I had been working on was now gone.  In the middle of the night, after the shower, after the writing — sometime around 4:00 every morning, alone in my room, I would remember…  

That’s when I got scared for myself… 

I was forced to look at my situation and, when I did, I became paralyzed with fear.  There were times when I sat in my seat, unable to think of what I would do or where I would go.  My options looked grim.  I was virtually estranged from my family.  Years of going down separate roads, with no time or effort invested, either on my part or theirs, to enclose us back in the loop of “family”  had created a distance and an indifference that caught me off guard.  I never realized before that not being committed in love and community with them would finally leave me without family to turn to. 

Sometime after the towers went down, Fred called me that he wanted to speak to me.  He came over that afternoon and handed me divorce papers.  I was too tired and too stunned about my life to be further shocked that he chose this time — after 8 years of separation —  to bring up a divorce.  I looked at them – three simple pages that dissolved a marriage that had long been over.  I looked up, “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered —  and I had to agree.  I signed the papers. 

That night, the impact of his visit hit me.  I was alone.  

The despair and loneliness hit.  I had been praying at the armory with the victims’ families, but my own prayers seemed empty and meaningless.  That night, they moved into desperation.  There was no direction, no comfort, no hope. 

I didn’t know how to reach out.  I never did that before.  I always had it that I was supposed to do it by myself.  I didn’t know any other way.  And, in not reaching out, I had withdrawn into myself, closing myself off to everyone who had ever been in my life. 

I walked to my computer and sat down.  I composed an email to Marianne Williamson.  Marianne was the pastor of Church of Today in Detroit, Michigan.  I had read her book, “A Return to Love” many years before and had loved it.  It was a book based on her reflections on “A Course in Miracles”, a spiritual self-study program.  Since then, I had searched out her lectures and workshops.  She had just been in New York City after 9/11, speaking at St. Bartholemew’s Church on Park Avenue about the tragedy.  She had said something that was so hopeful:  “God didn’t make this happen, but, now that it has, God has a plan.” 

I wondered if He had a plan for me, too. 

I wrote to her about the victims’ families and what I was doing with them and that I felt called to do that work – to help people deal with the tragedy, to make a difference in people’s lives, and that the calling had to do with God, but I didn’t know what that was.  I knew I wanted to continue helping people, but what did that look like?  I questioned how one went about figuring that out AND making a living at that same time.  I told her that I was at a point of fear and “not knowing” and that didn’t feel good, but what WAS the way?  I didn’t know and I hoped that she did.  I clicked “Send”.  

The next day, I received an answer.  The email said: 

After reading your email, my sense is that you need to be more patient as you are being ‘pruned’ for this work.  I don’t believe we can hurry the process, we can only be willing to be used, to be changed, to evolve.  A year from now you will look back and see how much you have grown in faith and trust.  You will see how your fear has been kept in check, not removed, but kept in check by your faith and a power greater than yourself.  Do what is in front of you to do right now and the next thing will be shown to you in due time.  I know it is not easy, and yet I do believe this is the way the preparation for service works.

God’s blessings are with you” 

At the bottom of the email, there was a note:  “It might be helpful to put yourself in a spiritual support group.  Here is a list of “A Course In Miracles” study groups in Manhattan.  It is not for everyone.  See if it is for you.”       

I called every group on the list.  Some people were inviting, some were distant and aloof, some were in people’s homes, some met in coffee shops once a week.       

The last name on the list was Jeffrey Mironov.  He lived on the Upper West Side, and he held a group in his home every Wednesday night.  He had been doing it for 10 years.  He was open and welcoming and comforting on the phone.  I don’t remember what  he said to me, but I do remember that I knew that this was the group for me. 

I told him I would come the following Wednesday. 

Years before, after reading Marianne’s book, I had bought a copy of “A Course in Miracles”.  I tried to read it by myself and found it very dense and confusing.  I was baffled – she got what she got from this book?  How?  I could barely keep my attention on it for more than a paragraph without my mind wandering away…  

I thought, “Maybe if I find the chapter on ‘forgiveness’, that would be enough…”.   I laugh at myself now when I think of that since the entire work is based on forgiveness.  At the time, though, I was looking for the quick and easy way.  Perhaps I just wasn’t ready.  I found the one chapter heading with “forgiveness” in the title and tried to read that.  No luck.  I folded back the book to the page, stuck it in the closet and there it remained. 

As I prepared to go to Jeffrey’s house on December 5th, 2001, I searched all over for my copy of the Course.  I found it tucked away in the back of one of my closets, still with the page turned back to the chapter on “forgiveness”.  I didn’t know how studying this book that I didn’t understand would give me any peace.   But, I was willing to look at it differently….

Jeffrey lived – and still does — at 86th Street and Riverside Drive, a beautiful pre-war building called The Normandy.  The doorman directed me to take the elevator up to the 15th floor  — I opened the door – already slightly ajar — into Jeffrey’s apartment .  Nice.  Cozy.  I stepped into the foyer and noticed lots of shoes by the door.  I took mine off and lay them near the others.  I walked into the room where I saw people sitting.  

What was immediately there for me was the breath-taking view of the Hudson River and New Jersey from the living room window.  I was instantly  relieved that I wasn’t in some basement somewhere with no windows and a stark, single bulb hanging from the ceiling, which is how I always imagined “self-help” group meetings. 

I met Jeffrey, the leader, a tall, easy guy who reminded me of what I always thought  Ichabod Crane from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” looked like.  Only  there was nothing scared and meek about Jeffrey.  He seemed peaceful and friendly and invited me in as if his home was my home.  There was a power and grace to him.     

There were other people there, but the one who most stands out for me was Steve Conenna.  Steve is a big guy, tall with a shaved head and a wide, ever-present smile.  I was nervous about meeting everyone, but Jeffrey and Steve made me feel comfortable and, somehow, as if I belonged there…  as if I’d always belonged there… 

We read from “A Course in Miracles” and Jeffrey spoke.  I don’t remember everything he said, but he was so sure, so certain that God is “right here, right now.”  He used that expression a lot.  I wanted to ask, “How do you know that?”, but even as my questioning mind was going crazy, something inside me was settling down.  Every once in a while, the skeptical part would rise up and say something, and Jeffrey would simply answer, confident and certain, and I would sink back down into comfort.  Even so, the tears threatened to pour out at any moment.       

After a while, everyone started to leave.  Soon, I was alone in the living room with Jeffrey and Steve.  I told them about me – that I was broke, I didn’t know what to do, I felt alone and helpless AND I had just done this service at the armory that made me realize that I wanted to do something for other people.  I didn’t know what it was…  and I was afraid of what was next…

Even as I spoke, I was thinking,  “Am I kidding myself?  How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t even take care of myself?  Am I just making excuses for a life now in crisis?  How will I know what I am supposed to do?” 

My mind was going crazy… 

Anger growled into my voice as I spoke about why I was there, “I know what I DON’T want – I don’t want to sit around and talk about God!  I don’t think that helps anything or anyone.  I want an experience of God in my life.  I want whatever this is that is angry and scared to go away and I want some peace.  I want to just BE.  I don’t want to keep trying to survive.  I’m tired and I’m scared.  If we’re just going to talk about God, this is not for me and I’m not coming back.” 

That night, and in all the years since I’ve  known  Jeffrey – I have never seen him flinch at anything I’ve said.  I’ve never seen him angry or defensive or lose it or be anything other than loving and great.  He responded to my rant by looking right in my eyes.  He said:

Linda, God loves you now, He has always loved you, and He will  always  love you. That’s all there ever is,  always.” 

That was it.  I stared at him as he and Steve looked at me.  And.. I felt… love.  It washed over me.  Right then.  Not before.   Just… right…. then.   Suddenly, Jeffrey looked beautiful to me.  Steve looked beautiful to me.  The tears rolled  down my cheeks.  I couldn’t believe it could be that simple – all of a sudden, I felt a joy and a comfort and a love for everything and everybody… 

And… the fear was gone…       

Steve said, “You look pretty good to me.”  I nodded my head.  I looked into his eyes and then I looked into Jeffrey’s eyes and I knew…. 

This is what I came for…. 

I’ve been here ever since….  in the love, in the peace, in the knowing… 

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All…  Linda

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”  Psalm 138:8

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”    Mohandas Mahatma Ghandi

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This is Marianne Williamson, whose book, “A Return to Love” is the book I read that got me to “A Course in Miracles.”  She’s written many books since then and I’ve read them all.  If you want to know more about her or to order this book or any of her other books, all of which I recommend,  please go to her website, www.marianne.com.  I particularly like “Illuminata” which is a book of prayers that I keep by my bed.

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

 

In a world of material beauty, it is often challenging to stay present to the real beauty in the world: love, compassion, kindness — without which the world would surely be a sad, dark, and lonely place…

I remember that my mother, in her vigilant attempt to keep me free from false pride about my own face or figure, would remind me that these were not the important things of life. If one of my parents’ friends would make a fuss about my looks, my mother would take me aside and whisper in my ear, “Just remember, Linda, beauty is as beauty does….”

Still, I spent most of my life enamored of beautiful people, beautiful clothes, and beautiful places and things… I spent most of my career in the fashion business where those things are one’s stock in trade – equally important to any merchandising or marketing talent one might actually have….

I left the fashion business years ago, not without some longing and regret, but always knowing that there was something else for me to do, something new for me to learn, something more for me to “get” about life…

How much I had changed became clear to me when I volunteered at the armory in New York City after 9/11 to work with the victims’ families — Here is a story that captures my altered view of the world….

I was sitting with a family whose husband and father was among the many who had not appeared anywhere after four days…. most people there were left without certainty about what had happened to their loved ones… and it was for the volunteers to sit with them, pray with them, get them some food – be there for them…

I heard someone say, “There’s Elizabeth Taylor!”

I turned, and, sure enough, there was Elizabeth Taylor with an entourage of about three or four people. She had on a long caftan and was walking with a cane. She was speaking with the men in her group and looking around the cavernous hall.

I had seen her in person many years before. When I was at Bloomingdale’s, I had been invited to a fund-raising dinner for an AIDS benefit. I don’t think it was called “AMFAR” yet – it was in the early days of the AIDS pandemic. It was a very elegant, star-studded, fashionable affair.

Elizabeth Taylor was the main draw.

I kept trying to get near her. She had always been my favorite actress, ever since I had seen the film, “National Velvet”. Her affair and subsequent marriage to Richard Burton was the tabloid fodder of my growing-up years. One time, I even drew this sexy black mole near where I had seen that she had one, and, at fifteen, I dyed my hair black and did everything I could to have her hairstyle, her make-up, her face. Alas, those are gifts one is born with, and so I eventually grew out of that phase. But, I never stopped admiring her in the years after I had given up trying to be her. If anything, she had gained more of my admiration for her continued work for AIDS victims.

I spent the whole time at the AIDS event trying to position myself to be near enough that I could see her up close – I wanted to see those violet eyes, that crowd-stopping face. I wanted to hear that whisper-y, sexy, Elizabeth Taylor voice just once in my life!

She had been heavy at some point prior to the event, but now was a very petite, slim woman with enormous breasts – a feature I had never noticed before. I attributed that to her beauty. Her face was so beautiful, and, of course, those eyes! No one in the magazines ever seemed to emphasize the rest of her figure except to report on its weight fluctuations.

I was about ready to give up hope of getting close to her when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of her bodyguards and asked to step to the side. I did and turned around – and there she was.

She was walking in my direction — She stopped to talk to someone about two feet away from me. I was stuck to the ground — I couldn’t take my eyes from her face.

People were pushing me to get near her. Usually, I would have let people get in front of me rather than stand my ground and possibly get trampled.   This time, I pushed back.   No one was getting between Elizabeth and me!

She turned back toward me — her bodyguard touched her arm to urge her onward. As she was turning, she looked right at me. It could only have been for a moment, but it was enough.

I saw them. I looked right at her face — and I saw them. The violet eyes. I felt as if I was close to some fabulous jewels that not everyone would ever get to see and I was one of those lucky ones. Her eyes were all I COULD see – and, they were violet. Beautiful, deep, purple-y violet.

She looked right at me.

As she walked by, she was mere inches away…. I couldn’t believe that I had actually been that close to her. ..

Everyone rushed past me to keep up with her, but I was rooted to the spot. Finally, I turned in time to see her being swept out the door.

Now, here she was again – older, heavier, clearly walking with difficulty, even with her cane. But, the face – there was no mistake. That was Elizabeth Taylor.

She kept looking around and her eyes finally settled on the family I was with. She walked towards us. I was sitting with my arm around the mother of the group. Elizabeth came over and sat down right next to us and then turned her attention to the rest of the family. She started talking to them. The mother had been crying and I had been comforting her — even we stopped to listen.

Her sexy, whisper-y Elizabeth Taylor voice somehow landed for me now as sweet and mellifluous, gentle and loving…

I don’t remember everything she said. She told them that she was so sorry and that she wished that she could do something. She took her hand and put it on the daughter’s cheek. She asked them questions about their father. She listened as they spoke. They asked her to sign their placard with his picture and she graciously did so.

She turned back towards the mother and said something to console her. Then she lifted her head and looked directly into my eyes. I looked back into hers. We were just being there together: Two people, wanting to help, wanting the pain to go away, wanting to make a difference…

I saw her eyes well with tears….

Her bodyguards helped her up and led her away. She looked around as she headed for the front door. She stopped a few more times and spoke to more people, but not for long.

And then she was gone.

It occurred to me…. I hadn’t noticed what color her eyes were…

I’m sure they were as violet and as beautiful as ever….

Something had shifted for me, though…. the beauty I saw that night was her transcendant beauty — a beauty of the heart in service to the world…

As my mother would say, “Beauty is as beauty does…..”

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeousness of it All…. Linda

“The ideals which have lighted me on my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully — have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty”. . . . Albert Einstein

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” … Helen Keller

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

ChocolateMartini2Hi, it’s Linda again — and today I want to share with you the luscious “secret” to having your dreams fulfilled… Here’s a hint…. It’s all about what comes out of your mouth….

Your Words have Power and Magic in them…

I’ve often spoken and written about how we create with our Words… I wish I could take credit for that observation – the truth is that all the great traditions have known this for centuries. The Buddha himself said:

“The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

The Buddha lived from around 563 to 483 BC – so this is not new news!

Here’s a yummy story to illustrate my point….

A few years ago, I took the year-long Wisdom Course at Landmark Education. One of the areas that we work on in that course is “What are your dreams?” And the practice was to “Speak your dreams…”

At first, I thought, “Oh, that sounds nice…. but, REALLY….?”

Part of our homework was to make collages of how life “seems” to us… I didn’t realize it at the time, but those conversations that exist in the background of our lives are what keep us from having what we want… If we don’t believe we deserve it — or we say “Oh, that will never happen…,” it’s easy to see that we might just be the ones who are keeping those dreams at bay…. Out there, just beyond our reach…

My collages were very dramatic and dire…. I didn’t realize that I was holding it that I had “lost” so many things in my life…. even though, many of those very things I had chosen to leave behind: my glamorous career in the fashion business, going to fashion shows all over the world, staying in the most beautiful hotels, dinners with famous designers, living in a beautiful apartment off Park Avenue, my beautiful house on the beach in the Hamptons, and so on… and so on….

As I started to work on my collages, I started to come up with themes like, “It seems like I have destroyed everything that I love,” “It seems like I had my chance and I blew it,” and “It seems like I will never live in beauty again….”

As I worked on that last one, I noticed a picture on the worktable – it was a picture of an ancient temple, over-grown with vines and with big white trees growing up through the walls…. It spoke to me of a former grandeur that was no more…

“Like my life…”, I thought.

I grabbed the picture up from the table, turned to my group and said, “Who cut this out? Where is this? Does anyone need this one?”

Everyone said, “No, take it…. we don’t know what that is….”

I placed it carefully on my collage — it seemed to fit perfectly…..

We did other work with those collages – and I was able to shift my conversation about myself from how I had lost everything into “I am always triumphant!” It was a glorious moment for me when I got that for myself….

A few months later, I was invited to a special screening of a film created by two of the other participants in the Wisdom Course. The film is called “New Year Baby” and it is the director’s own story of her family’s survival and escape from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

This award-winning film moved me to tears… By the time it was over, I wanted to know more about Cambodia, more about what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, more about the director, Socheata Poeuv, whose story it was, and her co-writer and producer, Charles Vogl….

As I was speaking with Charles about Cambodia and how fascinating it was to me, he said, “We’re going with a group to Cambodia in February… Too bad I didn’t know earlier that you would be so interested… The trip is full…. Don’t worry, we’ll probably go again next year…”

I remember saying, longingly, “Oh, I really want to go…!”

The week after, my coach in the Wisdom course asked me to show my collages to the rest of the group and to tell them what I got from them. As I showed the collage titled, “It seems like I will never live in beauty again…”, a friend in the group, Deborah, pointed at the picture of the ancient temple and said, “I’ve been there!”

I just stared at her, “Where is that?” I said….

Deborah answered, “It’s in Cambodia….”

I got chills up and down my spine…

I looked at the board again, and I said, without thinking, “I’m going there…”

Three days later, Charles Vogl called me. He told me that three people had dropped out of the trip to Cambodia and did I want to come?

It was too perfect. I said “Yes” before I even asked how much it was!

I spent the next two months generating the money to go… it seemed almost effortless… “Effortless” is the way things seem to me when I am certain that I am on the right path. Obstacles dropped by the wayside, apartments closed with ease, the commission checks I needed to come through for the trip – Well, they just did…

I went to Cambodia for 10 days in February of 2007 – with 22 of the most wonderful people I have ever known. It was an adventure from beginning to end… both exciting and – at one point, scary – when one of the jeeps we were riding in on the way to a temple in the North, swung out of control and wound up flipping over several times to land upside down in a ditch on the side of the road. Charles’ parents were hurt and air-lifted to Bangkok, while Charles and my other friend, Ron, suffered less severe injuries – the jeep driver had to be taken to the hospital and remained there for months….

Several days into the trip, we visited a temple called “Ta Proehm.” Immediately, I recognized that this temple, with the white trees growing out of the walls, was the one from my collage. As I walked through the temple grounds, I felt myself becoming more and more captured by my surroundings… with each step, my anticipation grew…

Finally, I turned a corner…. and there it was… the very scene in my collage….

I couldn’t move… I was overwhelmed that I was standing there, in the very spot in which the photographer must have been standing when he took the picture… I felt led to that moment from the beginning of my journey so many months before….. The scene was awesome, a Presence palpable — how old the temple was and how many centuries it must have taken for the trees to grow up through the walls, how beautiful it all was…

“How beautiful it all was…!” As the thought struck me, I realized that my collage was titled, “It seems that I will never live in beauty again….” and here I was, standing in the midst of that raw, natural beauty – and I was a part of it….

A few of my friends who knew the story, came over to me… “This is it, isn’t it?”

I could hardly speak….”Yes… yes… this is it…..”

That moment will live forever in my memory… not only that I had manifested a dream by getting everything out of the way that prevented it from coming true… but that it had come true in an even greater way than I could ever have imagined…. to show me that what I once thought of as “over” and “lost” was really a new beginning….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” …Goethe

Ta Proehm2This is Ta Proehm in Cambodia, February, 2007 — A temple that had been lost in the jungle for centuries — when it was rediscovered, the government decided to leave it in it’s natural beauty rather than to clean it up as it did Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are both magnificent….. Ta Proehm is also the temple in which Angelina Jolie shot many of the scenes for her first “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” movie…

If you want to know more about “New Year Baby,” the film that got me to Cambodia, please visit www.newyearbaby.net.

 

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© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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I have been speaking with lots of my friends lately about the miracles I always see in my life – real miracles – those things that just weren’t going to happen any other way.  For me, they seem to happen all the time…

I remember one of the first times it happened for me — or perhaps the first time I noticed? — that what I said I wanted to happen – simply showed up. Let me share that with you now…

I used to own an apartment in a building designed by one of New York City’s premiere pre-war architects, Emory Roth.  It was one of a group of six buildings he designed in 1926 – three on the North side of the street and three on the South side — all pretty much the same, with just a few minor facade details from building to building to make it interesting.  The buildings were separate cooperatives, but they all got together and planted the same trees, the same plants, and – at Christmastime – they all decorated those trees with thousands of tiny white Christmas tree lights – it looked like a fairyland!   The block is known to be one of the most beautiful in Manhattan.

I was renovating my apartment and was trying to do as much as I could myself.  The apartment was old and had been painted so many times that a chip in the wall revealed myriad layers of paint colors – how many lives this apartment must have had!

I had fourteen doors in the apartment, all covered with the same rainbow layers of paint.  I wanted to remove the paint down to the bare wood and start all over again – that way, I could remove all the bumps and “grapefruit” effect that paint-over-paint creates.   I couldn’t use a heat gun – many of those old paint layers were most likely lead-based paint and that would have been too dangerous.

I discovered a product called “Peel-Away”, which is a paint remover that doesn’t smell and works great!   This stuff is amazing – you spread it on like icing on a cake, leave it for a while, and it liquefies the paint.   At that point, you could simply take a paint scraper and lift all the layers of paint off at one time to the clean wood beneath. It was like magic!

When I worked on the first door, I didn’t realize that you couldn’t leave the product to dry on the wood – you had to take it off as soon as the paint “melted.”  I didn’t realize that, or I was lazy, or both – when the “Peel-away” dried on the wood, the entire door warped and was unusable.

I learned my lesson, and I was careful with all the other doors.   I finally finished them all, and it was time to replace the door I had ruined.   I figured, “I’ll just order one door. How much could it possibly be?”  

I measured the door – it had to be a “right-opening” door and it had very odd measurements: 79-3/8” high, 29-5/16” wide, 1-5/8” thick.

I called every door store I could find.   It turned out that my door had to be custom made because no one made doors that size anymore. In fact, when I checked all the other thirteen doors in my apartment, not one of the doors was the same size as any of the other doors!   All the doors in the entire apartment had been made separately – no automatic pre-cut doors in 1926!   I couldn’t believe it!   The cheapest price quote was $865.00.   That was more than it would have cost to have all my doors scraped by a professional!

I was discouraged. After all that work, I had saved myself nothing.  I just couldn’t deal with how stupid and careless my mistake was – how it had cost me extra work and extra time — and I gained nothing…

I was so overwhelmed just thinking about what I had done. A “dark cloud” descended on me….

The only thing I could do right then was to meditate.   I had been doing Transcendental Meditation every morning since I was 28 years old.   Sometimes, when the world felt too “heavy”, I would do another session later in the day as well.   I could always tell when I needed it – when my thoughts were confused or I was sad or I was agitated. I would get this dazed, tired feeling and that was it. Off to my room I would go and disappear for 20 minutes.

This was one of those times….

I plopped myself onto my bed and sat up against my pillow.  I had a thought before I closed my eyes and took my first deep breath: “How am I going to get a door without it costing me so much money?”   My mind turned off and I entered into a place of peace and calm.

I opened my eyes later and took a deep breath – I didn’t remember thinking about the door while I was in my peaceful state, but when I opened my eyes, I thought, “I need a door. I’ll just get a door. Big deal.” 

I relaxed back onto my pillow and prepared to get back into my day.

I glanced out the window. My apartment was on the second floor and, from my vantage point sitting on my bed, I could clearly see across the street to one of our sister buildings.   There was a dumpster there – “Someone across the street must be renovating,” I thought.

As I stared out the window, I saw two men coming out of the service entrance of the building across the street – CARRYING A DOOR!

I sat bolt upright in my bed – “That’s my door!”  I jumped off the bed, ran out of my bedroom, grabbed my carpenter’s tape measure off the coffee table in my living room, dashed out the front door and down the stairs – I didn’t want to wait for the elevator – I had to get to those guys before they flung the door into the dumpster and maybe damaged it or even broke it!

I ran across the street, yelling, “Wait! I have to have that door!” They stopped, put the door down and set it up against the dumpster. They looked at me, puzzled. I ran to the door and pulled open the tape.   I took the measurements:   79-3/8” high, 29-5/16” wide, 1-5/8” thick.     It was a “right-handed” door.

Exactly the same as the door I had ruined…

I paid them to bring the door up to my apartment. They leaned it against the wall in the living room and they left.

I fell into a chair and just stared at it for a long time – how had that happened?    It was just too perfect to be pure coincidence, but my mind boggled at the idea that it could be anything more…

That was a long time ago…

Since then, I’ve had so many miracles just like that in my life. I think of something, I pray, I let it go, and whatever that is – appears….

I’ve  even tried to manipulate it a bit….  looking for the evidence, saying, “God, did you see that?  I did something good……”  That NEVER seems to work…..  That’s just the ego, up to it’s old tricks…

There’s no surrender in that….

When I stop thinking about it “working” or what I have to do to “make it happen”, AND let go of the fear and worry about that it won’t happen, or what will happen if it doesn’t happen, or how can I do this so it WILL happen….  and… well…  just do what is before me to do….

What there is to do is to have faith and trust that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to….    My prayer isn’t “Can I have this?”  but  “I know You know what is right for me…”  I am always graced with some wonderful “gift” – sometimes, even greater than what I could ever have thought to ask for on my own….

I have come to believe that we are here to create, to have abundance, to have joy and love, and to be at peace…

God opens that door….  All we have to do is to step through….

Deliciously yours in the Mystery of  it All, Linda

“There is no order of difficulty in miracles.  One is not ‘harder’ or ‘bigger’ than another.  They are all the same.  All expressions of love are maximal.”

“A Course in Miracles,”  Text, Chapter 1, Principles of Miracles.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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I am so very lucky!  I have so many friends – younger than I am and older than I am, near to me and far away, men and women, people I haven’t seen in years and those I see every week, casual friends and close, intimate friends with whom I share the secrets of my soul…

 

I am so blessed…

 

It wasn’t always this way.  There was a long stretch during which I was a virtual recluse… weeks that I didn’t go out of my apartment, years when I had no one in my home except for the occasional visit from my ex-husband and my son, when my phone lay silent in its cradle.  I didn’t even know that I was missing anything.  I had a few old friends around the country with whom I kept in contact every now and again, but they were the exceptions in my life and not the rule…  Alone with my thoughts, safe and hidden away, I wasn’t very good company — least of all, for myself…

 

Fortunately, a series of events thrust me back into the world…

 

I had taken a job in Pennsylvania, and, shortly thereafter, just as I was planning to move there from Manhattan, I was told that the company was in trouble and the man who had hired me just a few short months before had left suddenly the previous day…

 

I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t know whether to move there anyway and try to make a go of it – a go at what?  I didn’t know anyone, I had no friends and no home – I lived in The Wayne Hotel during the work week, where the only person I spoke to every day, outside my company, was the hotel waiter.

 

 

Finally, I could take no more…

 

I lay in bed one night, sad and lonely, and prayed:  “Here’s my life, God. Please take it.   I have no idea what I’m doing.  Show me the way to make a difference in the world, make me a better person…. And, Oh — could I have some friends while you’re at it?”

 

Two days after that, a member of my “Course in Miracles” group called to invite me to an introduction at Landmark Education, an organization that offers transformation education to people who want to take their lives to the next step on the “power, freedom, and full self-expression” ladder.  I didn’t want to go, but Steve had been so sweet to me since I joined the study group that I couldn’t bear to turn him down.  I went.  I listened.  I registered into the Landmark Forum. 

 

The next day, I woke up angry at Steve.  I called him and complained – I suppose my ego felt really threatened.  Doing “this thing” was something new, something different – it felt like a violation of my invisibility that I seemed to treasure above all else.  I accused him of “coercing me” – he listened and said nothing.  At the end, he just loved me and stood in that I could choose…

 

Something wouldn’t let me cancel it.  I resigned myself to doing it, even though the moment of value that I had glimpsed the night before in the introduction was long gone and forgotten….

 

The weekend of my Landmark Forum was a blur of breakdowns followed by breakthroughs…  I don’t remember everything…  but, I do remember that, at one point, someone asked the leader, Sophie, why she did this work and she said, “As long as there is one child starving in Africa, I will be a Landmark Forum leader…”  My head said, “What do starving children in Africa have to do with the Landmark Forum?  I thought this was supposed to be about ME!”

 

Thankfully, my heart heard something else… 

 

When we raise our level of consciousness, the awareness of love increases.  When the awareness of love increases, compassion increases.  When compassion increases, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the sadness and pain in the world.  We leave behind simply worrying about our own little “self” – and step into putting our Higher Self out there in the world to be of service.

 

In the course of all the work I’ve done in Landmark Education over these past four years, my anger and impatience has become a thing of the past, my life is given by making a difference in the world, and — Oh, by the way, I now have so many friends that I’ve long ago run out of fingers and toes on which to count them….

 

In one of my leadership courses last year, as my ego was “burned off” in the doing of the work, I became close with a group of women in the year-long class.  We were united in that most precious of all endeavors – being there for each other as we revealed our deepest fears – those fears that we found out were similar to everyone else’s fears – those fears that keep us small and invisible and hidden away from the world, those fears that keep us from our own Greatness… 

 

In this group of women, all ages are represented: one in her 20’s, one in her 30’s, two  in their 40’s, one in her 50’s, two in their 60’s and one at 70 years old.  When we are together, you would never know the difference – there is no ego, there is no age, there are no “shoulds,” there is nothing there but love….  I call them my Magnificent Seven….  When I am with them, I feel like I can do anything….!

 

There is a passage in “A Course in Miracles” in the Manual for Teachers that speaks of the different stages one goes through on the way to a trust in God that banishes all fear and doubt.  In this passage, we are cautioned that we have come a long way at a certain point, AND there is a long way still to go: “Yet when he is ready to go on, he goes with mighty companions beside him.  Now he rests a while, and gathers them before going on.  He will not go on from here alone.”  

 

I am truly blessed…  as is everyone who takes on growing and creating and inventing and serving and loving ….  We do not go into Heaven alone….  We are meant to love each other… and to make the journey together…

 

To Anat and Raquel and Gretchen and Dale and Kate and Patricia and Verna… and to all my Mighty Companions everywhere….

 

I love you with all my heart…

 

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it all….  Linda

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you. 

 

 

 

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