Spiritual growth, says Sri Bhagavan, always begins where you are, not where you want to be. This is his favorite advice, which he gives spiritual seekers who travel to India and want to shed their past traumas so they can move forward in life with strength and dignity. His goal is to show people who seek a relationship with the Divine the joy of a life that is free from pain. I've been there. I know it is entirely possible to empty our bodily containers of fear, regret, worry, self-doubt, and old emotional programming and conditioning and live in the present moment. But we must make a conscious decision to stop clinging to our old stories and reliving them. If we want to experience true freedom, we must be willing to give up our suffering and let go of fear. There is no room for personal or spiritual growth when our lives are polluted by the agonies of the past.

One of our greatest tasks is to be willing to experience uncertainty. Will we have enough? Will we be alone? What happens when we give up our old relationships? Old jobs? The uncertainty of making sudden and drastic change in our lives might look like we are choosing to run adrift, but that is only an outward appearance. It's an illusion, and not the truth of what is. There is no separation from our Source, which sustains us completely. Adopting a new attitude, achieving financial independence, choosing emotional self-reliance—these are only human rites of passage that help us release our worries so we can find the essence of what constitutes us as individuals. What is underneath is gorgeous and strong. How can this not be true when each of us is an individual spark of Divine creation?

Clearly, our individual and collective narratives are how Spirit experiences life through us. Contemplating our stories is where the learning resides, where the spiritual journey begins. Instead of regurgitating our fears and victimhood, what we ought to be doing is taking a closer look at the emerging wisdom arising from our everyday experiences.

In the East, we are taught that our external state always mirrors our internal state of consciousness. Our lives unfold according to the level of consciousness we choose. When we align with higher consciousness, we demonstrate positive values and easily manifest health and prosperity, our natural states. At that time, we can declare to the universe that we wish to link up with its loving presence, and then, all things are possible. We can manifest excellent health and healing, abundance and financial prosperity, and nurturing relationships.

Emotional healing, the kind that leads to the discovery of the vast quantity of space we have to fill with our authentic self, happens in many ways. For some of us, it is a mystical translation of energy, a downloading from the matrix of grace that washes us clean and gives us a blank page on which to write something new. For others, it is simply a willingness to see. In the oneness movement, we like to say, "To see is to be free," which means that we cannot truly discover our authentic self until we are willing to give up our suffering and pain, and toss away the dense lampshade that covers our natural light. When we are aware and see, we often discover that our mind, which a tool we are supposed to use to navigate life, has enslaved us. It keeps looking for different solutions to the same old problems and keeps us in a state of unrest. A mind that is not at ease is one that favors the playing of old mental movies over and over again, always hoping for a different ending.

Freedom from the past begins when we decide to adopt a high level of thought-awareness. It takes discipline to achieve this state of awareness. Many spiritual students have agonized over the difficulties of quieting their over-active minds. But we cannot be at peace nor be at ease with ourselves without awareness. Breaking out of the depths of despair and moving into the joyful, juicy life that Linda Joy speaks about is the result of practicing awareness of the present. To live joyfully, we must give our attention to where we are at that moment and just see.

The power to lead a juicy life percolates in the present moment, not in yesterday or tomorrow, but today. Today is the first day of our journey toward authenticity. We can never experience freedom or bliss if we have no acceptance or appreciation of the present moment. The present moment is where the creative energy of the imagination resides, and we cannot be present with the joy of life that is ours if cannot experience people as they are without wrapping them up in layers of judgment or comparison. These old ideas about ourselves are made worse when we filter life through unforgiveness. The hardest part comes from our inability to fill ourselves up with a sense of the Divine Presence, which is ultimately perfect in every way. A person who learns to work in conjunction with the Divine is authentic in every way. He or she is magnetic and expresses a level of confidence that inspires others. People who see the perfection of life are capable of seeing tragedy as a blessing. They can shift their perspective so that they can see the positive in any situation. It takes a lot of courage to override the mind's ongoing commentary and make a commitment to stop struggling.

When I read the stories in this book, I see women who have raised their consciousness. Their awareness of what is and their honesty with their struggles encourages us to re-examine our own human experiences. These women have experienced the full range of fear, and yet they rose above hate, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, anger, discontent, and pain. But rather than banish those emotions from their journeys, or worse, hang on to them as unwanted baggage, these women have given themselves permission to honor the gift each seemingly negative experience brings. In doing so, they have accepted divine guidance and made themselves available to participating in a relationship with a higher power. They have chosen to be present. They have analyzed less and experienced more. They have invited grace into their lives.

Linda Joy and I have a common bond. Our passages from emotional poverty to empowerment have shown us that it is just as easy to see life as a collection of old wounds that contaminate our relationships as it is to see life as set of ideas that contribute to our emotional and spiritual growth. We both know that when old wounds fester, we develop attitudes and behaviors to cover them – a heavy armor that blocks us from fully experiencing life. This describes the despair of an unconscious existence, a self-chosen victimhood that translates into an inability to relate to people as they are. Linda and I have both liberated and empowered ourselves by sharing a vital message in our work: Come to terms with your past by letting go of it. Look for wisdom in where you are right now. To see order and disorder in all forms, practice awareness at the highest level. When you recognize disorder, take a deep breath and just move forward.

Life has an amazing quality that transforms us into extraordinary spiritual teachers who can encourage others to empower themselves with the wisdom of their everyday experiences. It's what this book is about. A Juicy, Joyful Life will show you that every woman can transform someone else when she shares her story. This book will encourage you to see reality as a wonderful opportunity to grow your passion for your work, your family, and yourself. And by sharing, you can rediscover your own reality.

Our ability to evolve arises from knowing our essence, our presence as consciousness. And consciousness is always becoming aware of what is. Spirit lives through us. It is an eternal presence that is never static. Our biggest challenge is to reinterpret life in such a way that we become wide-open channels for the Presence. This is when our natural state of being comes forth. The stories in this book will show you that you no longer have to see yourself as an object in the world; instead, you can see yourself as part of the eternal, infinite stuff which is God happening though you. When you see this truth, that is when you will begin to live the juicy and joyful life these women are writing about.

Remember that life is deliciously flavored with our uniqueness. We are safe and secure. We are loved beyond measure. All we have to do is move forward.

With every blessing,

Rev. Dr. Charlene M. Proctor
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
August 2010

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