All things in life have by-products.

Our actions have by-products, our words have by-products, our use of fossil fuels, food choices, material possessions and personal relationships all generate by-products. Many times the things born from these choices are not the most positive. We are seeing global change at a phenomenal rate, animal suffering that would make your head spin if you really looked at it and human suffering that is just not acceptable. These are all by-products.

But I am not here this morning to share negative or sad or apocalyptic words or theories. I wish to share with you the by-product of positive action, born from conscious change and effort.

When I started merrily down the path of simplifying and minimizing things – obligations, commitments, space and words – with my little mantra (Is it needed? Is it beautiful? Does it bring value?), I believed the benefit would simply be more space and more time. Oh, and possibly less drama.

I envisioned closets that did not throw-up stuff, clean floors, an organized kitchen, flowing routines and more money in the bank.

For the most part, this is true. But I have discovered another wonderful by-product that has developed.

Trading stuff for experiences.

I had heard of these amazing things called “experiences,” from the far reaches of the universe and had read about them in books and blogs. But who knew one could actually experience them for oneself? Who knew that you could do stuff you always peripherally thought or dreamed of doing once you cleaned up all the stuff that was blocking the door and preventing you from getting out into the world.

But the interesting thing for me is, I noticed that after I moved the piles of stuff that were clogging up the energy and space, my “willingness” to venture out increased. I suddenly WANTED to do things that were outside of my comfort zone.

Because of this new-found willingness, I found myself last evening at a Kirtan/Satsang in Columbia.  Our friends, Kristen and Randall Brooks of The Bhakti House Band, are an amazingly talented couple who bring their wisdom and musical magic to people across the country by sharing kirtan. My husband loves to promote these events and has helped many groups and local yoga studios “hook-up” and offer gatherings in our local area.

Usually, I skip the festivities. In the past, I have made a million excuses.

“I need to stay home and take care of our son;” “I don’t feel well;” “I won’t know anyone;” “It’s not my thing.” Or secretly, “I’m scared as hell and I just can’t bring myself to go.”

I may have a big mouth sometimes, but the truth is I am a scared and shy little girl who is afraid that someone is going to say something mean. So I do not do the things I want to do because in my mind they are complicated or I might get hurt.

Holy crap, this is absolutely no way to live your life, is it? But, I am one of the most resistant people you will ever meet – especially when it comes to doing something new.

But this blockage, this internal clutter, has started to change recently. The outward clearing I have been practicing has started to clear out the garbage in my head.

When I stopped spending my time and money shopping and bringing crap into the house, I no longer had a process to hide behind.

My process use to look something like this:

I have to go grocery shopping; I have to look for a new pair of shoes; I have to buy the boy a winter coat; We need broccoli; I have to put gas in the car; I need a new handbag because this one is not simple; Let’s go to the bookstore and buy books written by people who have simplified their lives and/or are doing amazing things so that I can live vicariously through them.

What the heck am I admitting this for, right?

It’s all part of my process of being “willing;” willing to be honest, willing to see the truth, willing to live open, and willing ….gulp….to try to new experiences.

I have said it before but it is worth repeating, when you release the resistance and open up to the possibilities, amazing things rush into your life.

My willingness over the last month has included a spontaneous – in the middle of the week – trip to the mountains; attending the Blues Festival; exploring our town; talking to strangers (that are now friends); healing past hurts; approaching intimidating people; crafting and executing an amazing Halloween party; hosting a very late night dinner and visit (on a work night no less) with close friends from out-of-town; developing a new approach to holiday traditions; planning travel for early next year; new food choices and recipes and shopping local and working with what is available; drawing; and a very late night satsang that had echoing effects on my spirit even into today.

As part of the kirtan last night, Kristen (one half of The Bhakti House Band) asked all in attendance to pull a stick from a small vessel. Individual words were written on the sticks; awesome words like intention, synthesis, faith, truth.

My stick? “Willingness.”

At first, I wanted to toss it or pick another one. It felt like fire in my hand.

Oh, how it burned!

I felt the familiar resistance and the same fear-based langauge started playing in my head.

But then as I sat with it, I embraced it. Willingness had brought me to this place with this roomful of amazing people.

By connecting with willingness, I had been able to release “stuff” that I identified with and that I thought defined me; Willingness had opened up space for things to flow into my life; and by being “willing’ I had been able to release a continual and deeply ingrained fear and step outside of my comfort zone.

Essentially, I had embraced a willingness to experience life and open up my heart.

The heart = A place inside our chests that fear closes up if we are not diligent.

And we must be diligent, my friends.  Because as Kristen pointed out last night, if we all live from our hearts and find peace within ourselves FIRST, then that peace will naturally propel itself outward into the world.

We will never have peace if we do not have a personal willingness to live from our hearts and to find peace within ourselves first. We will never save Mother Earth if we do not have the willingness to release our attachment to the practices that are destroying her. We will never evolve on a personal level if we do not have the willingness to release the things that limit us in order to discover the things that expand us.

Trust me, even now, as I sit here writing and feeling all ooey-gooey and high from the good vibes of old and new friends, it is still scary as hell.

Living from our hearts is scary has hell. Because our ego and the part of us we identify with believes we will ultimately get hurt.  It believes we will shatter under the pressure of unkind people or inconsiderate words. It believes we will break from a cruel stare or an awkward moment.

We won’t.

We, our spirits, our hearts, our essence, is so much stronger than that. Look at the amazing things people do everyday simply by living from their hearts. These things have a resounding effect and long-term power because they are born from the most fragile place within us. This is the stuff that real life is made from and we only have to take a chance to try it for ourselves to see how amazing it can be!

Each year at Halloween, I set an intention for the coming 12 months. It is an old Celtic family tradition. Originally, I was going to choose gratitude. Even though, I feel this important, I have decided to acknowledge the pointers that I have been given and choose “willingness” instead.

Willingness encompasses gratitude. Willingness surrounds everything we wish to do or change. Willingness is all we need, to see our situation as it is and find peace with it and then move toward change if necessary. We need willingness to have gratitude for every single thing in our lives rather than complaining about what we do not have.

Most important, we need the willingness to love. Love who you are, love where you are, love the people who are in your life and love the possibilities that are ahead of you.

Perhaps all we need is love.

But first, we have to have the willingness to do so.

Even though I returned the stick at the end of the night, I can still feel its fire. But rather than a fire born from fear, it’s a fire for change.

I continue to hold that stick and its fire close to my heart, igniting my willingness and lighting my way through this sometimes crazy world.

And you know what? I am going to let it shine bright for all to see.

Cruel or awkward stares be damned.

Namaste’ my friends.