Sunday, 29 March 2015

Moving Towards Grace

If someone were to ask me to describe my younger self, I would have said I was extremely shy, preferring to blend into the background of life. Now, however, I suppose the correct label would be 'oppressed introvert'. In part, it was due to my personality and also it was my way of building a wall of protection around myself. Ironically, this worked only until someone needed a scapegoat to feed their narcissistic appetite; then I lit up like a neon sign.

By the time I was in my mid to late twenties, my personality changed dramatically. Becoming bitter and angry about my lot in life, from being knocked down and kicked while I was down there, I came to face life and everyone in it with utter contempt. With the slightest provocation, I would tear them to shreds with my razor sharp words. I was a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, morphing without a moment's notice. If my daughter happened to be near during one of these episodes, she would saunter away pretending not to know me. This personality change was not something I consciously decided to do or become, but was a gradual shift. It was something that I was very aware of, but didn't seem to have the know how to control.

I lived this way for many years until one day I 'woke up' and realized I HAD to make a change somehow. Going through life being angry all the time was extremely exhausting and this wasn't the real me. Deep down, I really didn't want to hurt anyone else; it was my protective armour. The real me was somewhere underneath this charade.

There's a Buddhist proverb that says, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” I had a hunger for spiritual information and knowledge … anything I could get my hands on. I started on my journey towards God. I read many books, watched PBS programs, youtube videos, and visited various spiritual websites. There seemed to be an endless buffet of resources. I went from one thing to another, and kept feeding the hunger, never getting enough. It would be a couple of years later that I would be given a book called A Course in Miracles. This seemed to be 'the one', the spiritual fit that was right for me. The undoing was also a gradual process as I walked towards God, in an attempt to leave the ego's tyrannical ways behind me.

Along the way, I picked up this phrase, in the form of a question, "What would Jesus do?", that I carried around with me in the back of my mind. This became an incredibly helpful tool to use in a situation that would otherwise have been resolved by an egoic reaction.

One evening, the end of a work day, I boarded a transit bus and sat myself in an aisle seat near the back. I proceeded to get my mp3 player out and put on my headphones. I sat back with my eyes closed and listened to music while I transitioned out the work self into the personal self. Every once in a while, when the bus was at a stop, I would open my eyes to see who was getting on. At one particular stop, a group of 3 or 4 teenagers, of about 14 or 15 years of age, got on. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a noticing. There was only standing room left, and they positioned themselves just behind me and to my left. I closed my eyes again and as we were travelling along, I felt the sting of a slap across my face, my eyes flying open in surprise. I had been practicing mind watching for a while at this point, and was very aware of the thoughts that came up. The first which was, 'this is a test', soon followed by my default question, "What would Jesus do?" Then I was aware of the thought, "Do something, this was done on purpose, probably a dare," very obviously the ego speaking. Another thought soon arose, "They probably just lost their grip and went off balance", which was no doubt my higher self. It was as if my mind had been split into three entities, the ego, the higher self, and my personal self which was observing this banter, of which also had the choice of which action was going to be taken.

I suddenly became aware of the silence in that area of the bus, as if time had stood still awaiting my response. Finally, I made a decision. I removed my headphones, turned slightly in my seat, and smiled (somewhere between a smirk and a smile) up at the group of teens, resumed my position and put my headphones back on, enjoying the rest of the trip home. The decision I came to in those few seconds was: if it was an accident, I would have made a utter fool of myself by getting up and ranting and raving and possibly embarrassing the teens (as would have been my old way of handling things). On the other hand, if it was done on purpose, I failed to provide them the satisfaction they were looking for by my non-reaction to the situation.

A couple of years later, I watched the movie Tree of Life, which had a quote or passage that seemed to envelope me. I felt the presence of God in this passage, and still do when I hear it. It was like a warm summer rain after a long parched summer.

The term 'nature' in this passage refers to the self-oriented human 'animal' nature … being apart from God, while grace of course, is the way of God.

“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life … the way of Nature… and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.

Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy ... when all the world is shining around it ... when love is smiling through all things.

They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ... ever comes to a bad end.
I will be true to You. Whatever comes.”

Also, upon hearing this passage, I was taken back to that incident on the bus a few years previous, realizing that was a moment towards grace.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Miracle of Forgiveness

What is the Body?

The teachings of A Course in Miracles help us to distinguish what is real and unreal (knowledge and perception). The world we perceive (the world of time and change, of beginnings and endings) is based on our interpretation. It is a world of birth and death, scarcity, loss, and separation. It is a learned perception, inaccurate and unstable. What perception sees and hears appears to be real because it permits into awareness only the wishes of the perceiver, leading to a world of illusions, which needs constant defense.

The ego's domain of guilt and fear (an unhealed mind) has us convinced that the body is a separate entity from the mind. Until we finally accept that body and mind are together within the mind, the illusory cycle of birth and death will continue … the last Special Relationship to be healed.

"Each lily of forgiveness offers all the world the silent miracle of love." (L-341.13)

A miracle is a correction reminding the mind that what it sees is false, undoing the error. Not attempting to exceed the function for forgiveness, it stays within the limits of 'time'. Forgiveness is the home of miracles.

We go through our illusory lives, the ego mind or 'small self' unconsciously pushing and packing unwanted emotions and feelings away, that we just don't want to deal with. While in theory, it seems like a good plan of action, it is in actuality causing havoc in 'the world' and keeping us away from experiencing true peace and joy.

When one becomes a student of A Course in Miracles, they can be assured that life as they have known it will shift and change. The familiar will start to fall away, as the ego mind twists and churns in childlike tantrums. False beliefs and concepts are being flushed out of hiding. Some of the changes are subtle, while others are of significance.

A couple of years ago, for me, the onset of this shift was soon in motion and there was no turning back. I sold my house and moved closer to my parents to help them out. About three months after the move, my parents started receiving help from various outside sources, therefore no longer requiring my assistance. There was a lot of pent up anger, rage and resentment being flushed up, which was directed towards them and the situation, even at the course. I resented the fact that I had come into contact with A Course in Miracles, as if it were some ancient curse.

Though subsconsciously, I was still using the tools. My mind was flitting through thoughts such as, you did this, you created this mess, you can't undo it, what now! I then turned that anger and rage towards myself, realizing that I was responsible for creating the situations outside myself, all the while the ego is screaming, "Look what YOU'VE done … this is SACRIFICE".

This dis-ease became a disease, and the body became very sick. I lost hair by the handfuls, weight dropped to 94 lbs, was dehydrated, and heart racing. After being diagnosed with Graves Disease and prescribed medication, my health was still on the decline. I felt like I was literally disappearing - the ego wanted to obliterate me.

A couple of months into this, my health was still declining. I worked at trying to forgive the illness, the fact that I was taking medication (magic), and even the fact that someone had to 'care' for me. I was too weak to care for myself, to walk, or even immerse myself in conversation (I felt like death), so was staying with a friend. One evening, while sitting near the computer as my friend was conversing with another friend via skype about the course, there was some mention of 'guilt' and 'magic'. Suddenly, the 'light switch' went on for me. I then realized that it was the guilt that I needed to forgive; not the illness or the medication. I had to go deeper and forgive the guilt that I was holding onto.

I went to bed that night and I listed off everything that I felt guilty about and everyone I was angry with, including myself, and sincerely forgave. Following that, I gave gratitude for everything that was given or shown to me. The next morning when I got, I immediately knew there was something different; I could feel the life back in my body. I went downstairs, had a coffee, chatted for awhile, then said, "You know, I feel great, I think I'm going to go home."

"The body is a fence the Son of God imagines he has built, to separate parts of his Self from other parts. It is within this fence he thinks he lives, to die as it decays and crumbles. For within this fence he thinks that he is safe from love. Identifying with his safety, he regards himself as what his safety is. How else could he be certain he remains within the body, keeping love outside?

The body will not stay. Yet this he sees as double safety. For the Son of God's impermanence is "proof" his fences work, and do the task his mind assigns to them. For if his oneness still remained untouched, who could attack and who could be attacked? Who could be victor? Who could be his prey? Who could be victim? Who the murderer? And if he did not die, what "proof" is there that God's eternal Son can be destroyed?

The body is a dream. Like other dreams it sometimes seems to picture happiness, but can quite suddenly revert to fear, where every dream is born. For only love creates in truth, and truth can never fear. Made to be fearful, must the body serve the purpose given it. But we can change the purpose that the body will obey by changing what we think that it is for.

The body is the means by which God's Son returns to sanity. Though it was made to fence him into hell without escape, yet has the goal of Heaven been exchanged for the pursuit of hell. The Son of God extends his hand to reach his brother, and to help him walk along the road with him. Now is the body holy. Now it serves to heal the mind that it was made to kill.

You will identify with what you think will make you safe. Whatever it may be, you will believe that it is one with you. Your safety lies in truth, and not in lies. Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self." (L-261.5)

Retreat at La Casa: Releasing Emotions
David and Michael lead a morning session about allowance of emotions to release the stories of the personality self. Healing abounds and need not be avoided. There is never a need to compromise when healing is the Purpose (English with Spanish translation).


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

People Pleasing: Bad for Your Health

People pleasers are the nicest people you will meet. They just can't say 'no' to anyone. They are always there to help or do whatever is asked of them. They avoid getting angry because they don't want to 'rock the boat'. People pleasers are not confrontational and will go out of their way to avoid it at all costs. They spend a tremendous amount of time doing things for other people.

These sound like wonderful qualities to have … right? Well NO … not really!!

People pleasers have a deep underlying fear of rejection, being provided with only 'conditional' love, in which they may have been rejected or abandoned, or threatened with such if they didn't succumb to following through on some request. If severely punished or criticised for even the most trivial mistakes, a fear of failure will also develop.

Tendencies toward becoming a people pleaser are constructed over time. Experiences we have in our early formative years imprint us with our personalities or character traits. Parents or caregivers were most likely overly critical and emotionally unavailable. Unfavorable criticism and punishment can lead to significant anxiety upon attempting tasks.

I'm not suggesting one stop helping people altogether. Wanting to help and care for others isn't all bad, your heart is in the right place, but there has to be a healthy balance.

People pleasers tend to neglect themselves and their own needs; suffer from stress and depression; and become a 'door mat' for others. They are usually passive aggressive and become resentful of people, rarely enjoying most activities.

The universe will continually bring situations or contrasting personalities (people who take advantage of others) into our awareness until we finally get it! Each time it will be more pronounced ... louder and louder until it's screaming at us to wake up and listen!

Personally, I know it's difficult to change or let go of certain defining parts of our persona. I would consider myself to have been one of the utmost of people pleasers! It wasn't that long ago that I finally woke up to this and took a good long look at my history of what it meant to be 'nice'. I was the type of person that hated to think the worst of people, and unendingly kept getting pulled into scenarios where I felt I was being manipulated.

I had a family member move in a couple of blocks from me. He had called me one evening, asking what I was doing on such and such an evening. I responded with, "I don't have anything planned, what's up (thinking he was going to invite me to do get together with him and his wife)?" He then asked if I would mind babysitting. Of course my enthusiasm dropped like a rock. The second time he calls, I fall for it again. In both instances, I had already confirmed that I didn't have plans, so I felt obligated to do something that I didn't really want to do. Previous to this, it would be unusual to hear from him. It's usually a good sign that if someone starts calling you asking for a favour, it will be the same thereafter. So the third time, I was prepared and when asked what I was doing on a particular evening, I responded with, "I have plans and won't be available that night." Eventually he stopped calling.

Similar instances would occur at work as well. When my work was completed, I would offer to take on work from others that were extremely busy. Eventually these extra tasks would become my sole responsibility. Now, you can watch the ego mind at play here, at first feeling flattered and appreciated. But as more tasks came my way, I found I was working extra hours in the evening, and on the weekends just to keep up. Working late, six or seven days a week eventually became the norm so that by the time I got home, I would have just enough time to eat, take a shower and go to bed to get up the next morning. The job was consuming me and my life. I was becoming depressed and stressed. My passive-aggressive self did not handle things very well, and I eventually left the job.

Another family member, for over a period of two years, had been sending emails almost daily stating that they were having a difficult time with this, a hard time with that. I would offer suggestions but they would go unheeded and peter out into the great abyss. So then I had the brilliant idea to sell my house and move closer to 'help out'. Approximately three months after the move, it became evident that I was no longer needed. Here I was unemployed and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, so I made the decision to move back from whence I came. It would be a couple of months before I could get all my ducks in a row, and in the meantime I began a ritual of self-abasement. I was eventually enveloped in an overwhelming depression, which caused me to become quite ill.

Now the universe is screaming at me, and I'm finally starting to listen.

By the time I was moved back to the city, my health was deteriorating by the day. My hair was falling out by the handfuls, excessive sweating, extreme weight loss despite my appetite, extreme muscle weakness, and increased heart rate. After a couple of visits to emergency, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, which can be triggered due to stress. Despite being prescribed medication, my health continued to decline until I weighed a mere 94 lbs (5'7"). Again, in the midst of a thyroid storm (a severe and life-threatening complication of the thyroid condition), I was back in the  emergency room.

It would be a couple of days later that the 'light switch' finally went on. I am a student of A Course in Miracles, which is a spiritual self-study curriculum of self-transformation and forgiveness. Temporarily shunning the course, it was in this instant that I realized or remembered that 'I' am accountable for what occurs in my outer world, by what is held within: beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions. In order to heal one must have a change of mind, a reversal of thought. No one was at fault for how 'I' chose to perceive my circumstances and the decisions I chose to make. We ultimately teach people how to treat us. You may also be interested in reading my post on Miracle of Forgiveness for the transformation in healing.

I'm not advocating that we should stop being nice, but rather to work at 'balancing' things out. There are many ways one can be helpful without destroying your life or health. By not giving our power away, we always had and have a choice to do what 'feels' right for us.

A few situations where 'nice' doesn't feel akin to being taken advantage of, is travelling on the transit and being comfortably seated while there is standing room only left (because who really likes to stand up on a moving vehicle) and giving my seat up to someone who is on crutches, a woman that is visibly pregnant, an elderly person, or a visually impaired person; or if I'm a few feet away and I happen to see a delivery person or someone trying to get a door open while struggling with an arm load of parcels or groceries, I will go back and assist them.

Related post: Love Yourself First - Your Most Important Relationship.

I was always the go to person, only because I constantly gave of myself. But our number one priority is self-love. We can't give what we don't possess.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Love Yourself First - Your Most Important Relationship

Self-love is the love of oneself, being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses. To love yourself means caring about, taking responsibility for, respecting, and knowing your true 'self'. In order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.

Self-love is not the same as being egocentric or narcissistic. These traits are actually the opposite of self-love. People who don't love themselves project this false self-image out to others in order to receive the admiration they desire, but they aren't happy within.

"Self-betrayal is a grievous matter. It rots the mind like cancer. The remedy lies in clarity and integrity of thinking. Try to understand that you live in a world of illusions, examine them and uncover their roots. The very attempt to do so will make you earnest, for there is bliss in right endeavor.” ~Nisargadatta

This is true … to 'not' love yourself is self-betrayal. I had such self-hate that I spent much of my life battling depression, food issues, and lashing out at people … not letting too many people get too close. I simply did not have the tools or the know how to help me deal with my emotions.

I grew up in a family of six, my three younger brothers, and my parents Being the oldest and the only female, I was treated differently. However, my parents would and have disputed that. My parents favored my two youngest brothers. Nothing I said or did was good enough or right enough. I just never fit in. I became outspoken and rebellious , and out-of-control, until I couldn't take it any longer. So at seventeen, I packed up a few things and left.

By this time, my destiny seemed to be cast in stone, continuing through a life of unworthiness. I would look for love in all the wrong places, attracting relationships that were reminiscent of my family. I ended up in an eight year relationship with a man that was emotionally and physically abusive. I asked myself, why and what was it all for? In my early thirties now, I finally had hit my breaking point, and made the decision to end that relationship, more for my daughter than for myself. Nonetheless, this decision would be the catalyst that would change my life and myself.

It certainly wasn't an overnight transition. The years of building layer upon layer of self-hatred and self-sabotage, like rings on a tree trunk, now had to be peeled away. It's an ongoing process day after day, month after month, and year after year.

Looking back, I have no regrets. All has been forgiven. Everything that has happened in my life has made me the person I am today. I am a stronger person for it all. I refuse to shrink or make myself small for someone else's comfort or for people who refuse to grow.

So how does one go about transitioning from self-hate to self-love? Take one, two, or three things and work with it. A sense of accomplishment can also boost one's self-esteem. Trying to make a 180 degree turn all at once may become overwhelming.

1. Acknowledgement

Acknowledging how you feel about yourself and how you treat yourself is a good starting point. How you feel about yourself is shown to you in the world around you. The conflict outside you is the conflict inside you--they are not separate.

2. Forgiveness

Forgiving those who have hurt you is a key component to healing. Parents, caregivers, spouses, friends, etc. are dealing with their own childhood grievances and issues of self-hatred, projecting it out onto those around them. Forgive yourself! You did not have the tools or knowledge to deal with your own and everyone else's emotions.

3. Journaling

This is a great way to express yourself , helping you gain a new perspective, changing negative thought patterns, and stopping your inner critic from holding you back.

4. Meditation

There are many benefits to meditating. Resting your mind in silence and peace, meditation can help you become more aware, consciousness, bringing you into the body and strengthening the immune system. The body loves your attention … every cell awakens.

“In meditation, healing can happen. When the mind is calm, alert and totally contented, then it is like a laser beam – it is very powerful and healing can happen.” - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

5. Creativity / Fun

Spend time having 'fun' … life should be enjoyed. Most of us have a passion for something. I had always admired people who could paint and wished that I could. I would tell myself that I can't draw, so I couldn't paint. Then a couple of years ago, I decided to at least try … the world won't fall apart. I looked up some videos on youtube, and I was off buying art supplies.

I'm no Michelangelo or Monet, but I thoroughly enjoy painting, and that's what counts. It's something close to a meditation for me. I can lose myself in it. You can view my video album of my 'artwork' here, if you wish.

6. Clean House

I find that having my house in disarray affects my mood. I put on some upbeat music and get to it. Once I'm finished cleaning I feel much better. Getting rid of stuff that you don't use is great for lifting your spirits too. I do this about once a year and have even found things I didn't even remember I had let alone didn't use any longer. Someone else could make better use of something that is just collecting dust otherwise.

7. Have a Cause

Find a cause that you are passionate about. It doesn't have to be anything grandiose, every small thing that we can do to help another can be a 'big' contribution. Small acts when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world. I am an animal lover, and I think I would adopt every one that needed a home if I could. I have recently started signing every petition that comes into my awareness. My one signature, in the end, may make all the difference for that particular cause. It's not a big thing, but I feel better doing something for another being.

8. Eating Right

I have recently become a vegetarian. I have to admit, however, that it wasn't for the health benefits, even though that is a big plus. I would often see these videos or information come through my timeline on facebook about the atrocities of which factory farm animals face, but could never bring myself to watch them due to my discomfort of 'knowing' what I might see. I was also aware of the guilt that was arising within me from avoiding the situation. So finally, I 'prepared' myself to watch a few of the videos, and it was after that when I made my decision to become a vegetarian.

9. Self-Discipline

Practicing self-discipline or self-control (staying motivated and on track) is a sign of inner strength and can be great for boosting your self-esteem. This inner strength will help you to overcome procrastination and provide will-power to overcome any addicting habits. (Still working on this one.)

10. Getting Enough Sleep

I think most of us are aware that if we don't get proper rest, we can become our 'evil twin'. We go through the day 'unconsciously'—being unaware and just going through the motions. We might do things without thinking it through, we become easily triggered in anger or other emotional outbursts. Getting proper rest makes for a healthy mind and body.

11. Being Alone Doesn't Mean Lonely

When I first got divorced, I felt 'embarrassed' about not being in a relationship, about going out and about by myself. Well, I gave those thoughts up long ago. What someone else thinks of me has no impact any longer. Most of those thoughts were created in my own mind anyway. And if someone does have issues with someone being alone, it is a reflection of their own insecurities. Spending time alone is significant in nurturing your relationship with yourself. As a matter of fact, it is crucial to spend time alone with yourself. How better to get to know the real you. I'm living my life happily and I quite enjoy my own company now. I don't have to answer to anyone, I can come and go as I please … I am my own person.

12. No People Pleasing

If you have plans or just don't feel like doing something … don't. We tend to want people to like us, or just don't want to rock the boat so we continuously put our own needs and wants aside. Most people won't appreciate your sacrifices. Some people will tend to think you should always be there for them without any consideration of you. You will, in all likelihood, tend to be the person who feels like they are being used or manipulated and you won't be happy. And when you do refuse to set your life aside, there is no need for explaining yourself.

We teach people how to treat us. If we don't have self-respect, neither will anyone else respect us. During the process of this transition, you will likely have family and 'friends' fall away out of your life. This has been the case for me, but as I mentioned earlier on, I refuse to shrink or make myself small for someone else's comfort or for people who refuse to grow. If someone wants to be in my life and treat me with the respect I deserve, they will be there … if not, they won't. I can only change myself, I have no control over anyone else, nor would I want to.

See also post on People Pleasing: Bad for Your Health.

Good luck on your journey of 'self' discovery and transition.

Art Video Album

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton

Sunday, 15 March 2015

10 Day Devotional - November 2013

"Love Is Now"

My Introduction to A Course In Miracles

It was around 2008 or 2009, I had never heard of A Course in Miracles until a long time friend of mine brought it to my attention. She had the 'miracle book' in her possession for many years when she decided it was time to start reading the text and applying the lessons. She had explained a bit about how she came upon the book, and briefly what it entailed. It wasn't long after that I became the recipient of the 'big blue book' as a birthday gift from her.

I took the book home, but it would be a few days (maybe weeks) before I had the interest to open it up and start reading it. I got through the first few pages, and thought to myself … what IS this? I quickly lost interest, unlike my friend who seemed quite enamoured with the book. I for, whatever reason ... resistance I guess, could not absorb the message in the context it was written. To me, it was like reading Shakespeare, which I am not a fan of! That book wasn't long going back on the shelf, there to sit for approximately a year, untouched.

My friend and I had both been searching for meaning and purpose in life for many years. We started with the idea of feng shui, a Chinese thought system which considers spatial arrangement in relation to energy flow and favorable and unfavorable effects taken into account. Leaving feng shui in the dust, we went on to follow Wayne Dwyer on PBS reading some of his books, as well as Louise Hay, Caroline Myss, Byron Katie, Law of Attraction (Esther and Jerry Hicks) and Eckhart Tolle. It wasn't until we (or my friend) came across videos of David Hoffmeister on youtube, when we became enthralled with David. His teachings seemed to be the catalyst to directing me back at another attempt to reading the text of A Course in Miracles.

I was still having a difficult time grappling with understanding the text. This book just wasn't resonating with me at all! With a couple of chapters behind me, I came across an interview by Kenneth Bok. He was interviewing a gentleman (whom I cannot not remember), but he was explaining his theory on reading A Course in Miracles. Also, having a difficult time understanding the text, and after having his book sitting on the shelf for a lengthy period, he decided to just read through it, as some of it was bound to 'stick'. I decided that this would be my approach from here on forward … to continue trudging through the text in the hopes that I would pick up something from it. I wasn't working then, so would make the experience as pleasant as possible. It was a beautiful summer, and I would venture outside to sit in the yard where I could enjoy the sunshine and the birds singing in the background while I read. I read through a couple of sections daily, and most days did the lessons as well as listening to David's talks on youtube. I can't remember how long it took, but I finally made it to the end, still with the lessons incomplete, but none-the-less, I had accomplished it! I'm not sure, however, if I had retained anything at this point.

It was sometime shortly after that I was introduced to Gary Renard (via the internet) and his book The Disappearance of the Universe. I made the decision to get this book due to its promotion as a supplement to understanding the principles of A Course in Miracles. Even though at times sceptical, I found the book to make the world of difference in my comprehension of the teachings.

It was some time later (a couple of years from my initial introduction to this path) that I would pick up the course book and read through the chapters once again (still working on the lessons). To my surprise and delight, it was like reading a completely different book. I was hooked!

Looking back, I now understand that everything on my path was presented to me, in timely fashion, to bring me to this point of understanding. Everything happens perfectly … the Holy Spirit meets you where you are at … always! One just has to be open to receive.

"The Holy Spirit mediates between illusions and the truth. Since He must bridge the gap between reality and dreams, perception leads to knowledge through the grace that God has given Him, to be His gift to everyone who turns to Him for truth. Across the bridge that He provides are dreams all carried to the truth, to be dispelled before the light of knowledge. There are sights and sounds forever laid aside. And where they were perceived before, forgiveness has made possible perception's tranquil end." (L-281.p7)

I am now a full fledge student living A Course in Miracles teachings. I am currently working on the Mystical Mind Training program (a practical multimedia training program which helps ministerial trainees, miracle workers and teachers of God experience inner peace), have attended retreats, as well as participate in volunteering with transcribing and assist with the restructuring of the Movie Watcher's Guide to Enlightenment (watching your emotions during a movie and releasing what is coming up, can speed up the awakening process).

A Course in Miracles shows us the way out of suffering and into a true place of peace and joy. The only way to experience that amazing healing is to live the teachings day by day.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Chunky Mushroom Chowder

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: (8)

Serve this low fat, hearty Italian style soup with a green salad and crusty whole wheat roll for a quick comforting meal. Vary the amount of red pepper flakes according to taste preference.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups chopped chives or leeks
(white part only, about 1 large)
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups water
2 cups frozen corn kernels (or canned)
1 (796 ml) can diced tomatoes
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄3 cup chopped parsley (optional)


1. In large saucepan heat oil over medium heat; add mushrooms, chives/leeks, potato, garlic, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes; sauté about 5 minutes. Add water and corn; bring to boil and cover. Lower heat and simmer about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to boil; lower heat to simmer for about 10 minutes or until hot. Stir in parsley if desired.

Optional: Garnish with grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Should Animals Have Rights?

Should animals have rights?

Well, the obvious and simple answer to that question is, "Yes"! Animals surely deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation., legally defines a Sentient Being as: "A creature that can suffer and feel pain, mostly animals and humans. Generally, in law, a sentient being is one with the faculty of sensation and the power to perceive, reason and think."

"Sentient animals are beings that have a physical and psychological sensibility, which allows them - in the same way as humans - to experience pain and pleasure. And it is certain that they naturally seek, by all means available to them, to avoid painful experiences."

Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as "qualia"). In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, and thus is held to confer certain rights.

Animals have the ability to experience varying emotions such as depression, as well as compassion for another animals and humans.

It happens everyday, dogs are given up and their hearts are broken. Some are adopted out and many out there are put to sleep, or just left on the streets to fend for themselves. They feel the pain and anguish of abandonment.

That's what happened to this poor baby, who was devastated when her owners surrendered her at the  pound recently. She wouldn't raise her head, terrified at where she was she sat in the corner. Another gentle soul, who was also an 'owner surrender', had a big enough heart to try to cheer up her new friend; by trying to play with her and to get her to lift her head.

Animals simply do not like being tortured, as described in the case of this mother bear and her cub, known as bile or battery bears, being held captive for harvesting of their bile. In 2011, Chinese media reported that a captive bear on a Chinese bear farm killed her son and then herself after she heard him cry out in pain when a catheter was jammed into his abdomen so that bile could be extracted from his gallbladder for human medicinal purposes.

Around 14,000 bears are kept in horrific conditions and routinely tortured on bear farms. In this case "a mother bear reportedly broke free after hearing her cub's cry, causing bear 'farmers' to run away in fear. She then ran to the cub's side and immediately smothered it, then ran headlong into a wall and killing herself instantly."

Captive bears spend upwards of 30 years in tiny cages where they can barely move their head and neck to feed and drink water. As they get larger the bears are crushed in their cage so that more bile can be squeezed out.

These bears suffer extreme psychological and physical damage, including severe depression, gnawing off paws, rubbing the skin off their face and nose on the bars of their cage, chewing on the bars and losing teeth, and banging their head into the sides of their cage. Liver cancer is quite common as well. The bile that is extracted is used for a variety of ailments in the name of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but there are more than 100 synthetics and herbs that are actually better and cheaper and experts agree that bile is no longer needed. Surely, it's time for a change.

Moon Bear Rescue Centre outside of Chengdu, China, founded and run by Animals Asia, to date have rescued 361 bears and have a very active campaign specifically designed to end bear farming. While there is unimaginable suffering, there also some awesome individuals such as the Animals Asia team. Consider Jasper, who, after spending 15 years of torture in a tiny crush cage, has become an ambassador for forgiveness generosity, peace, trust, and hope.

Jasper welcomes new bears into the rescue center, breaks up fights, and plays with others who were lucky enough to be rescued. While tears flow for many other captive and rescued bears, individuals like Jasper bring smiles to our face and give us hope for the future. Clearly, it's time to end bear farming now.

On a more positive note, changes are moving to a higher stage.

The French Parliament has overturned 200 years of law to elevate animals to the status of sentient beings. Although it was already obvious to most of us, this recognition in law is an important milestone for animals. As the law begins to acknowledge the sentience of animals, recognition will grow that animals have needs and desires of their own. And one day they will gain the rights that they have so long been denied. As well, New Zealand is set to acknowledge sentience in its own animal welfare legislation later this year.

Ending an era for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus' fabled elephant acts, the parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced Thursday that it will phase out the performances by 2018, over growing public concern about the animals, calling the decision "unprecedented". Members of the public have voiced concerns about how elephants and other animals are treated in circus acts.

The 13 elephants that are now part of the Ringling Bros. shows will be sent to the circus' Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018, joining more than 40 others.

These few stories barely touch the surface of the enormity of animal cruelty that is prevalent on the planet today, in it's various forms. We can each do our part to help … research, sign petitions, share information with others. The animals need our voice.

Love doesn't see animals versus humans, Love just sees, feels, and knows the vibration of God, beneath the false costumes of animals, or humans. Just love all beings, feel the vibrations, stop seeing through the eyes of the ego and see through the eyes of Christ. All for one, one for all.


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Homemade Condiments (Vegan)

You may be aware that most of the products out there on the shelves aren’t made organically or naturally and contain a lot of toxic chemicals and sugar. Making things yourself not only saves you money, but lets you know where your products are coming from and exactly what’s in it.

Whenever you can, use organic foods and ingredients in recipes. Use sea salt instead of table salt. Use healthy oils like coconut oil. Use raw cane sugar or honey as sweetener instead of refined white sugar. Choosing the cleanest ingredients is the best choice for your mind and body.

Benefits: GMO Free, Refined Sugar Free, Corn Free, High in Anti-Oxidants, High in Vitamin C, Vegan, and Gluten Free


Total Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: (4.5 cups)


4 cans/jars (6 oz each – 3 cups) of Organic Tomato Paste (or make your own)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (or 1 teaspoon stevia powder)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt (sea salt)
A pinch of each of the following to taste: Cayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves
2 teaspoons chia seeds (for thickness)


1. Put the ingredients in a blender and blend well.
2. Pour into a glass or container and store in the fridge. Let flavors mesh together overnight for great flavor.


Total Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: (1.5 cups)


1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons agave
1 cup organic canola oil


Place soy milk, sea salt, ground mustard, garlic powder, vinegar and agave in a blender. Place the lid on the blender and turn to slow.

Take the middle part of the blender’s lid out while the blender is still running and slowly pour in the canola oil.
Place the lid back on and blend until the mayo is thick and creamy.

This recipe is awesome as is or you can use it as a base and add whatever flavor you like. More garlic (maybe minced and sautéed in a little canola oil before you add it), chives, dill, sun dried tomato, let your imagine run wild and have fun.

You can double this recipe for a bigger batch if need be.


Total Prep Time: 5 mins
Serves: 1.5 cups


2/3 cup (120gr) yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
1.5 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chili flakes (depending on how hot you want the mustard you can use mild chili flakes or hot ones)
1/3 tsp sea salt
1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup water at room temperature


1. Mix apple cider vinegar with water and add mustard seeds. Leave to soak for 2 to 3 days. The mustard seeds will absorb almost all the liquid and will start to smell like you’re about to make the best mustard on the planet.
2. Add mustard mix to a blender, together with the rest of the ingredients, and blitz until you get a smooth consistency. If you think it’s too thick, add 2 Tbsp of water at a time and continue to blend until you get it smooth.
3. Spoon into jars, leaving no air bubbles if you can, and keep covered in the fridge.

Note: Mustard should keep well in the fridge, for up to few months. Though it’s best to consume it as fresh as possible. Start making those delicious honey & mustard salad dressings!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Serenity Through a Course in Miracles

Serenity Through a Course in Miracles

"Reading verses from a A Course In Miracles, the loving narration of Leigh Taylor-Young
is interwoven with the penetrating music of the Miracles album by Rob Whitesides-Woo.
Selected verses are presented in a meditative style, interwoven with the music of harp,
strings, and winds, moving the listener to peace of mind."

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Spicy Cashew Falafel

Nutrition information per serving: 400 calories; 220 calories from fat (55 per cent of total calories); 25 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 34 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 17 g protein; 1,080 mg sodium.

Falafel pan-fried patties made from chickpeas, onions and a bunch of delicious seasonings are healthy and versatile. They can be served as-is with a yogurt or sour cream dipping sauce; or stuffed into a pita pocket with onions and tomatoes.

They also adapt well to whatever flavors you prefer. Though I like the classic combination of cilantro and cumin, which you could ditch for Italian or Indian seasonings. Cooking method can vary, too. Tradition calls for deep-frying, but I never do that. I prefer to fry them in just a bit of oil in a skillet. You also could lose the frying entirely and bake them in the oven.

This recipe mixes things up just a bit, adding lightly chopped cashews for a creamy flavor and delicate crunch. It also adds a bit of smoked paprika for depth and just a dash of hot sauce.
Prefer to do these in the oven? Arrange the patties on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 425 F for 10 to 12 minutes. And if you’re not into spicy, feel free to leave out the hot sauce.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

• 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
• 3 tablespoons tahini
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
• 4 large plum tomatoes, finely chopped
• Sea salt and ground black pepper
• 1 medium red onion, quartered
• 4 cloves garlic
• 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
• 1/2 cup fresh parsley
• 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
• 1/2 cup cashews
• 1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce, to taste
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
• Zest of 1/2 lemon
• 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tahini and lemon juice until smooth. Mix in the tomatoes and scallions, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the falafel, in a food processor combine the onion, garlic, cilantro and parsley. Pulse until the onion and herbs are finely chopped, but not pulverized. Add the chickpeas, cashews, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, the cumin, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and lemon zest. Pulse about 7 to 8 times, or until the chickpeas and cashews are finely chopped, but not ground.

Divide the mixture into 12 walnut-sized balls, then use your hands to form each into a tightly packed 2-inch patty.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the patties, working in batches if needed, and fry for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until browned and crisp. If working in batches, keep the finished falafel warm in a 200 F oven. Serve the falafel with the yogurt-tahini sauce spooned over them.

Home Upgrades – Worth the Investment

It's that time of year and many of you will be considering upgrades to your home and surrounding property. Any changes you make on your house now should increase your home value later. Hiring a reputable contractor to do the work is best. People know that renovating can be a nightmare, and you will appreciate that they did the dirty work for you. But which projects will yield the most bang for your buck? Take a look at this list, starting with the upgrades most likely to recoup your investment, down the road.

Painting - Paint provides dramatic results with little investment. A fresh coat of paint or a new, interesting  wallpaper pattern instantly rejuvenates walls. Can’t decide on a color? Experts say that pale yellow homes tend to sell faster and for more money: yellow is optimistic and inspirational; gives people a sense of joy and the sense that brighter times are ahead.

Adding Siding - According to a study conducted by Remodeling magazine, fiber-cement siding (which is made of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers), while vinyl can crack, split, and warp and aluminum tends to dent and fade, easy-care fiber cement holds up well against the elements and is resistant to fire, rotting, and termites.

Building a Deck - A deck will provide you with more than a place to flip burgers and soak up the sun. People see a deck as a seamless transition from inside to out. Experts suggest using natural, rustic wood. Wooden decks (as opposed to concrete or composite ones) add impressive value to your home.

Updating the Kitchen - You really can’t go wrong with remodeling your kitchen. Stick with high-quality fixtures, like stainless-steel appliances and granite counters. A word of caution: If your house is a tiny two-bedroom bungalow, don’t bother splurging on, say, a high-end stove; you will never get your money back by installing fancy appliances in a smaller home. And if an appliance overhaul isn’t in the cards, you can easily make cosmetic updates on a kitchen that’s in decent shape. For example, if your existing appliances are in good working order, coat them with electrostatic paint to give them a metallic or enamel-type finish.

Replacing the Windows - If you’re experiencing cool and blustery weather … in your living room, it’s time to buy new panes, pronto. Not only are you losing precious heat but your utility bill could also be skyrocketing. Energy-efficient windows eliminate drafts, so your home feels warmer.

Modifying a Bathroom - Bathroom upgrades, like updated countertops and new fixtures, prove to be a solid investment. Ornate moulding and panelling, is a stylish way to update a contemporary bathroom. Avoid anything too trendy, choose classic features that will appeal to people with both traditional and contemporary tastes, should you decide to sell. There’s no need to splurge on fancy fixtures, either. A tub is a tub ... a Jacuzzi will never make or break a sale. Opt for a floating vanity, which will create the illusion of space in a small bathroom. Switch to a low-litres-per-flush toilet that, over the course of a year, can save thousands of litres of water in your household. Or, for quick touch-ups on existing sinks, toilets, and tubs, consider hiring a surface-restoration company that recoats ceramic, porcelain, and fiberglass fixtures with a chemical bonding agent that looks like shiny new porcelain.

Fixing up the Basement - There’s nothing worse than that unmistakable damp-basement smell. A dry basement is far more important than worrying about the right lighting or furnishings. If your basement is prone to flooding, leaks, or excess moisture, call in a pro. If you do want to finish your basement by adding drywall, insulation, laminate flooring, or even a bathroom, be sure it’s proportional in quality to other areas of your home. Basement remodels can also add great value to your home, depending on the quality of the materials.

Landscaping - The front of your house is the first thing people see, so it makes sense that any improvements―from planting petunias to surrounding your home with a hedge―will be worth your while. Don’t be afraid to spend money on perennials, which come back year after year. As for big-ticket investments, like trees, they aren’t just nice to look at; they also stave off erosion, block storm-water runoff, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and filter groundwater pollutants. They might make your home sell for more money, too. Properties with well-established trees are even more attractive to potential home buyers down the road. When determining which areas of your yard to attend to first, try approaching the house from the curb to the front door. Buyers make their decisions in approximately the first eight seconds. After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Men: Necessity of Self-Love

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”

Self-love gives one the impression of a narcissistic or egotistic personality, which is not the case, but in actuality a portrayal of the false-self and nothing to do with true self-love.

Self-love starts from within one's self; thus giving one the ability to accept love and extend it to others. In order to give love to another, one must first feel worthy and deserving of love themselves. We cannot give something that we do not ourselves possess.

Over the past decade or so, I have been aware of the abundant articles promoting self-love for women and girls through magazines, television, social media and the internet. However, it is a rarity to see anything on this topic towards men and boys.

Most men I have known grew up devoid of any affection at all, and are actually discouraged from being affectionate through gender stereotyping. The picture of "masculinity" has been defined by society, as in many of our other roles or status. Men that are sincerely affectionate with women are often goaded and taunted, being told they are on a short leash or told they need to be a man or grow some balls.

"Society" has been a pinnacle in defining our roles. It takes great strength and character to step outside that box and redefine ourselves, otherwise we are stuck in the same cycle of a "cookie cutter" definition of who we are told to be.

We were a family of six; my father, mother, three brothers, and myself. Being in the military, my father headed the family with a likeness to a 'drill sergeant' rather than a father figure. He was cold and aloof, and spoke with harsh, unloving words. It seemed as though he didn't have the capacity to be loving and gentle. It was the 60s and early 70s, things were different then; he just didn't know how. However, as a young impressionable child, my subjective perception showed me a picture of his feelings to be a hatred towards meI took it personally. This would set the stage for living a life of my own self-hatred and an unconscious attraction towards men, in my later life, that would mirror my father's image, only further perpetuating the cycle.

My father lacked any paternal or maternal affection as a young boy. He lost his mother to tuberculosis when he was six years old. His own father was neither a very loving or an affectionate man. It is no doubt, the experience of losing his wife and having to care for two young children in the mid 30s played a significant role in his demeanor.

Self-love can show men how to be affectionate to the rest of the world, creating a positive reflection of self-esteem, self-forgiveness, emotional communication, generosity and affection back to you.

For anyone, self-love initiates a positive modeling of affection. For instance, if your best friend was down and out, you might say things like: You did the best you could; Don’t beat yourself up about it; Don’t worry about it; or It’s gonna be okay, and so on. Why wouldn’t you say these things to yourself?

Since love and friendship go hand in hand, you must first form a friendship with your self. If you are constantly doubting, criticizing, or lying to your friends, they wouldn't stick around very long—who would! The same goes with the ability to form a meaningful relationship with yourself.  For some men, they either struggle with feelings of inferiority, anger, frustration and self-righteousness, or they tear themselves down without knowing it. If you form a genuine, lasting friendship with yourself, you wouldn't do it anymore, because a good friend would never treat you that way.

It's not just lack of love that affects men's self-esteem, but a trend in body image and the pressure to be perfect, has been on the rise. Today, it’s not only women who feel pressure to live up to Hollywood standards of what is attractive. You see it on the covers of men's health magazines, the actors in the movies, or sexy models in fragrance ads with muscular physiques and strong jawlines. When men feel they don’t measure up to the ideal—with washboard abs and a full head of hair—they may become insecure about how they look, further depleting their self-esteem.

Self-esteem relates to how much you like yourself, recognize and appreciate your individual character, qualities, skills, and accomplishments. Like body image, self-esteem can also be based on how you think other people look at you as a person.

I have heard men say they want a 'real' woman, not high maintenance eye candy. They want someone with whom they can have meaningful conversations, someone who will treat them with respect. Personally, I think women want a man that is going to treat them right; they want a 'real' man. They're not looking for a perfect physique to match some magazine cover or someone who doesn't like himself and is full of disdain for everyone around him. A real man has a genuine smile, a big heart, and gentle words and is comfortable with who he is. 

You may be losing some hair, or you've gained a few pounds
so what! If someone wants the package to look perfect or for you to have a large bank account, etc., rather than what's on the inside; you are undoubtedly with the wrong person!

So do yourselves a favor and stop defining yourself by society's standards, or anyone else's standards. Be your best friend first. Go love yourself.

You can't expect anyone else to give you what you can't give yourself.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Natural Body Wonders: Baking Soda

Baking soda is an item that can be found in most households today. Baking soda does wonders for improving the appearance and health of your teeth, hair and skin, and is more economical to use rather than the expensive products on the store shelves.

Teeth Whitening

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice - Mix approximately 1 good teaspoon of baking soda with just enough fresh lemon juice (or water) to make a paste. Wipe your teeth and any extra saliva off of them with a paper towel. Put a good amount of paste onto your toothbrush and apply. Leave the paste on for 1 minute, then rinse to avoid the acid effecting enamel. If you are using just water you can leave it on for up to 3 minutes. Do this once a week.

Strawberry, Salt and Baking Soda Scrub - Strawberries are high in Vitamin C, which can help break-down plaque that is causing your teeth to look yellow. It also has an enzyme called malic acid, which may help to remove surface stains. The salt acts as an abrasive portion of the paste, physically scrubbing away stain-causing gunk.

1-3 large strawberries
A pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Mash the berries into a pulp, and add a pinch of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda, if you’re using it. Wipe any extra saliva off your teeth with a paper towel, and then apply a generous portion of the mixture to a toothbrush and apply. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then rinse. Do this nightly.

Coconut Oil Rinse - This may sound absolutely mad, but rinsing your mouth with coconut oil (called ‘oil pulling’ - see below) is a unique, old remedy that people swear by to help whiten teeth. The lauric acid in coconut oil can rid your teeth of bacteria found in plaque that can make them yellow. It is also supposed to promote gum health, and help keep your breath fresh.
Use about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
In the morning, before you brush your teeth, scoop out a tablespoon or a little less (depending on the size of your mouth) of coconut oil. You can either soften it, or just put it in your mouth (I usually do the latter, and just let it soften.) Push, swish, and “pull” the oil through and around your teeth for 10-15 minutes, then spit it out, rinse with water, and brush your teeth.
Hair and Skin

Pull out skin deposits - When you are taking a shower, or washing your hair, make sure to add some baking soda in the shampoo. In this way, you will remove all the layers that build up on your hair over time. This comes because of using different hair products that are hard to wash.

Peeling - If you create a mixture of baking soda and water, you will come up with a good face-peeling product. This mixture will remove all the dead skin cells (exfoliation) from your face and your skin will appear younger and smoother.

Cuticles - If you use baking soda on your cuticles, you will make them softer. Use the mixture of water and baking soda on the cuticles and nails by using a nail polish brush. Gently rub these areas and you will fix all the problems with your cuticles.

Brush cleaning - As mentioned before, baking soda can help you with your hair by removing the layers of unwanted particles on your skin, but also by removing these particles from your brushes and combs. Use a mixture of boiling hot water and baking soda and soak the brush in the mixture.

Foot care - A mixture of baking soda with warm water will help your feet too. This mixture will de-stress your skin and you will feel relaxed and calm. Many people use it for home pedicure treatments.

Warts - Experts that work with natural remedies suggest creating a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice in order to remove unwanted warts. Make this combination and use it on the affected area. Leave the mixture until it dries off and use lukewarm water to clean the area.