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Friday's Inspiration Weekly
Lessons Learned


Bad times have scientific value. There are occasions a good learner would not miss.

Cultivate your garden ... Do not depend upon teachers to educate you ... follow your own bent, pursue your curiosity bravely, express yourself, make your own harmony ... In the end, education, like happiness, is individual, and must come to us from life and from ourselves. There is no way; each pilgrim must make his own path.

Government employees use a process called 'Lessons Learned' to analyze what works and what doesn't. While I am making my own way down my own Path, how can I profit from experiences?

Entrée: Surprised By Joy - Sarah Ban Breathnach

The writer Cynthia Ozick believes that "after a certain number of years our faces become our biographies." I hope she's right. If she is, then there is prima facie evidence to support my theory of reembodiment, a variation on the ancient spiritual principle of reincarnation.

Reincarnation is the belief that, after our physical deaths, our souls are born again in another time, another place, and another body in order to continue our journey to peace and perfection by mastering spiritual lessons. The ancients believed that this deeply personal, authentic journey takes many lifetimes. But once the lessons are mastered, we get to move on, promoted, in a sense, to the next grade.

But what if we're awake and willing to take an accelerated course during this Earthly visit? Why can't we ask Spirit right now to teach us the particular lessons that we need to speed up our journey to authenticity? Perhaps we can reach a state of enlightened reembodiment-here and now-in which we enrich and transform our lives by remembering and reexamining the dreams, loves, and fears of our own past.

Yes, even the fears. I fully believe that we can alter the course of our destiny in wondrous ways when we invite into our lives the very lessons that frighten us most. This is because spiritual law transcends the laws of karma. We are meant to work our way through the fears; that's our karma. But we overcome them through Spirit. When we extend an invitation to meet our fears, even as our knees are knocking and our stomachs are churning, Heaven admires our mettle, applauds our audacity, and gifts us with Amazing Grace. Always remember, never forget: first the gesture, then the grace.

In his book Crisis Points: Working Through Personal Problems, the English writer Julian Sleigh explores the idea of looking at the demons in our lives who "make us shrink in fear and revulsion" as bearers of gifts hidden under their wings. "If we challenge them and make them yield up their gifts," he says, "they will be satisfied and will fly away, leaving us to benefit from what they brought."

Regardless of how we choose to look at our fears - whether we have caused our own problems or are simply caught in the snares of others', whether we are blindsided by a sudden crisis or have been running from one for a long time - Sleigh reminds us that we only have three choices:

    1. Ignore it and hope it will go away. It won't.
    2. Try and live with it. Not forever.
    3. Look for the gift within our fear and benefit from it. When we do, we emerge on the other side of life, surprised by joy.

"Be joyful," the poet Wendell Berry encourages us, "because it is humanly possible."

About the author:

Sarah Ban Breathnach's (pronounced "Bon Brannock") work celebrates quiet joys, simple pleasures and everyday epiphanies. The wisdom, warmth, compassion and disarming candor of her No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy and Something More (both published by Warner Books) have made her a trusted voice to millions of women. To order your copy of Something More, click here - Order Something More now!

Second Helping: A New Source of Strength - What I've Learned About Self-Sufficiency by Barbara Brabec

When my mother—my greatest motivator—died in mid-1992, I felt as though a part of me had died, too. The following summer, I learned I had breast cancer. Caught early, I took it in stride, but the experience (which I viewed as a wake-up call from God) took a lot out of me. I made some changes to reduce my business stress, but my spirits continued to sag until the fall of 1994 when I finally admitted for the first time in my life that I lacked confidence and a sense of direction. I was tired, restless, insecure and totally burned out, a woman whose previous ambition and spirit had fled.

What do you do when you realize you've used the last ounce of your personal strength resources and don't know how to replenish them? In discussing this with a good friend, she said, "Have you tried praying? To get help, you must ask for it."

In thinking about this, I saw that I had always taken great pride in the fact that I could "do it myself." I've always been so self-sufficient that I've never asked anyone for help, even when I needed it. Certainly I'd never thought of asking God for help for He was surely too busy with the important things of the world to be concerned about my little problems.

One night, however, unable to sleep because of all my cares and worries, I got down on my knees and ardently prayed for the first time in thirty years. I said, "Lord, I really need some help here!" Then I told Him in detail what was bothering me and asked Him to give me strength, courage and guidance.

My prayer was answered the next night in a way that to me was both miraculous and glorious: my whole life began to change in exciting ways as soon as I plugged myself into God's power. (For more information on this topic, CLICK HERE.)

It's now clear to me that we can go a long way under our own steam and much farther when others are behind us offering motivational support and encouragement. But sooner or later, with or without emotional and motivational support, we're all going to run out of ourselves someday. The problem today is that there are so many books and so many humanists out there saying "You can do it! All you have to do is believe in yourself." As many before me have learned, that's not enough.

There is a limit to the number of times you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Unless you plug into a source of power greater than yourself, one day you may discover as I did that, without God, you're as dead and useless as a light bulb without electricity.

So remember to thank God for the special skills, talents and abilities He has given you, and don't hesitate to lean on the LORD when you need help or encouragement in either your personal or home-business life. From experience I have learned that if we will simply put our faith in God and give Him an opportunity to work in our lives, He will lead us in surprising new directions and reveal wondrous things we never could have discovered on our own. As the Bible confirms:

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." (Proverbs 16.3)

About the author:

The above excerpted from Barbara's bestseller, Homemade Money. A long-time leader in the home-business and crafts industries, Barbara Brabec has been working with and writing about home-based entrepreneurs and craftspeople since 1971. Self-employed for most of her adult life, she is one of America's best-known home-business authors. Barbara's books include Homemade Money and Creative Cash, both of which have achieved classic status, each with more than 110,000 copies sold. Homemade Money, called the most comprehensive home-business guide in print, recommended by U.S. Small Business Administration specialists and used as a text in entrepreneurial courses across the country.

Soup to Nuts: From the Feedback Button

In her comments about last week's newsletter, No Place to Hide, Nowhere to Run, Maralyn wrote, "This is super for me today.  Just what I needed to go forward. Much gratitude and my blessings." And when she finally got to see the pictures last week, she wrote once more, "Thank you again, I went back to see the pictures, and they are wonderful.  You add so much to the life of a very old woman."

Thanks for your kind comments, Maralyn. I bet you are quite young at heart. I do hope everyone got to see the pictures. If not, just click the link in the paragraph above.

About an archived article on setting and keeping boundaries written two years ago this month, Victoria writes: "Your message regarding boundaries and learning how to say no and to be comfortable with this, is very inspiring. You would think that with all of the hurtful and unsatisfying ordeals that I have experienced in life, that this would have been one of the easiest lessons to learn, how to be true to the boundaries that I have created for myself. My feeling is, when we've been programmed at such a young age to grab whatever comes our way, whether it be healthy or unhealthy, just to feel needed, wanted and loved, we have a tendency to not respect our boundaries, even knowing that outcome will be bleak. It takes inspirational messages such as yours to get me back on track. Thanks again for such a great site. Take care and God Bless."

Well stated, and thanks for the feedback, Victoria. I am glad the message was there for you. It truly makes my day to know that even just one other person has benefited from my experience. You, my dear friends, make the hard knocks worth taking, so that we both can learn! Victoria's message has inspired me, too! See Growing My Own in the Main Course, below. Now, everybody practice! "No, no, no!"   :-)

The Whine List: Enjoy this week's sports Whine of the Week with Oliver Winery's Sauvignon Blanc 2002, a crisp and light wine with melon and grapefruit flavors, well-balanced with a long, zingy finish! $12.26 online at Oliver Winery - with free UPS shipping on 6 or more bottles! Oliver Winery is Indiana's oldest and largest winery, operating since 1972, and is among twelve wineries on The Wall Street Journal's recommended visitation list. Appréciez le repas!

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Main Course: Growing My Own

According to Carlos Casteneda, "We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong - the amount of work is the same." Some experts say that I should listen to others and profit from their experience, and I have been urged by other experts to listen only to my inner voice. I take the approach that I should do both, especially when there is an opportunity, as Emerson suggests, to be a "good learner."

Even the best gardener did not gain his skills solely from his own understanding, and I have learned more than a few lessons in the process of tending my own garden. A good gardener will educate him- or herself about gardening methods or types of plants best suited to grow in their garden, and will borrow the experience of others to bring things to life, while at the same time putting a personal lair into the selection, arrangement, and so on.

It is work, either way - Life or gardening, it amounts to pretty much the same thing - some thoughtful pruning, a bit of plowing ahead, removing the weeds and planting the seeds that will grow long after I have moved on, reaping the harvest when it has ripened, for good or ill, or simply enjoying the abundance of it all. The analogies are endless, but none of it happens without directed effort. The best method of directing my efforts is to combine my experience with my best-guess gut-feeling intuition. That, essentially, is all Life asks of me. It does not expect success, but it always offers the opportunity to take a risk and profit from my experience.

My friend Mark Peters, once told me, "Paying attention to - and learning from - someone else's experience greatly reduces the costly tuition for the School of Hard Knocks." Now, I am not sure if that is an original statement, or if he just picked it up somewhere, but I liked it and I used it in Comparisons, because it makes sense to me. Mind you, I can't take someone else's experience and just plug it into my head, but I can adapt the strategy they used to solve their problem, and apply it to one of my own. Or, I can follow the footsteps of their successes, and perhaps make fewer mistakes.

Those who are truly successful in life have a few things in common. At the foundation of their success is a belief system of some sort, a reliance upon something outside themself - Krsna, God, Buddha, a "higher power" of some sort. Most belief systems offer a course of study from a guidebook that not only lays down the Divine Law of right and wrong, but chronicles the experiences of those who live in accordance with their belief in that Divine Law, or the experience of erring therefrom. I have profited greatly from the Volume of the Sacred Law, and I turn to it when I need to borrow something that can be useful or personally and spiritually strengthening in my life.

Successful individuals point to someone - a mentor or a role model that walked their Path and shared their experiences - someone that they looked upon as an example, one that they built upon in their own life, and that helped them to direct their own choices. Most belief systems have at their center an exemplar, one who trod the Path to enlightenment and spiritual fruition. I can think of several persons in my life that have been exemplary to me, but the thing that stands out most about them is that each was authentically themself.

If I can point to one thing in this world, and say, "that is what I want to be when I grow up!" I would say that is it - I want people to say, when I have passed on, "He was authentically himself." I'm working on it... and there are no shortages of opportunities to learn the lessons of authenticity. And there are no shortages of experiences from others that I can draw upon. It is simply a matter of finding out what works, and doing more of that... and figuring out what doesn't work and not doing that again. Yeah, just like gardening. I know.

When the Universe thinks I am ready to grow, each opportunity to become authentic by making authentic choices must be grasped and experienced for the lessons to be learned. Time for me to get to work... I've got some growing to do!

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