What if today is the day you’ve been hoping for?

 How would you choose to live it out?  You opened your eyes to a new sunrise, a new display of nature’s magnificence. You’re included in God’s master plan for humanity.  How will you choose to spend it?  I first thought seriously about this concept as a 17 year old high school senior.  I was chosen to play the lead character, Emily, in the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder.  Little did I know that role would change my life forever.  Even now, I could cry as I recall the moment.  Emily was a young woman who died giving birth to her first child.  There was a scene after her death in which she pleaded with the Narrator, who was the God character, to live once again.  After some deliberation on his part, her desire was granted; to come back to earth for just one more day.  “Make it an insignificant day”, said the Narrator, “for it will be significant enough”.  Emily was thrilled and spontaneously blurted out, “My twelfth birthday!”.  She began to relive this ‘insignificant day’ with her family in the scene, just as it had happened.  Suddenly her eyes were opened as she tried without success to get her mother to stop and truly listen to her.  From her new vantage point, she could now see the beautiful gift of life in the simplest moments.  “Mamma, look at me, really, really look at me.”, she said, as her mother busily scurried about trying to prepare the meal.  As the scene unfolded Emily could not contain her feelings any longer.  Turning to the Narrator, she burst into tears crying out with deep sadness, “Doesn’t anyone realize life while they’re living it, every, every minute?”  He wisely replied, “Some poets do, I suppose”. Thornton Wilder, in his great wisdom, unveiled the meaning of the play and life in that one sentence,  “Doesn’t anyone realize life while they’re living ?”.  

Will you realize life while you’re living it?  I ask myself once again, that same question; will I realize life while I’m living it?  While I still have breath?  As you’re reading this, turn inward and notice that yearning you feel right now as it emanates from the deepest recesses of your being.  It is the desire to live fully, authentically, deeply connected and engaged.  To know God and be known by God.  To love and be loved.  The spiritual journey is the foundation for all of life, for it is life and life is the container for relationship, first with God, then with self, others and the world.  How will you choose to honor this day, to receive the gift of this day?  Don’t let another moment go by, another breath leave your body without your awareness of the magnificence that is your life.  Don’t wait until your moments are numbered before you wake up on the inside and cherish each one, for even the most insignificant of days is significant enough.  

I’ve Fallen Into Negative Thinking and I Can’t Get Up!

What is that one nagging, critical thought that keeps you stuck and has you believing you aren’t meant for an abundant whole life, inner peace, freedom and purpose?  
I’ll share my big one today with you and then you get to share me yours. To think I’m not even halfway through my day yet! Here it is…drumroll please…”You’re so lazy”. Yes, that’s a big one for me. Probably because I heard it as a child. As an adult I can look back and realize it wasn’t true, I wasn’t lazy at all.  (Listen to me defend myself.) I was just a young contemplative!! I always did what I was supposed to do, told to do, expected to do. However, my mom didn’t understand all those hours spent alone in my room, praying, thinking, reflecting or reading.  I’ve always had a contemplative nature. Yet, after all these years you would think that thought wouldn’t even be on my radar screen.  Well, it is.  Especially on a day when I’m not up dressed and out of the house early.  It is a thought that can hook me. It can sidetrack my attention and worse yet my intention.
Sometimes I notice the false thoughts and am able to do my Prayer of Turning. However, there are those times that I fall for the lie, usually because I’m tired or feeling a bit overwhelmed by responsibilities or both.
When UNABLE to turn away from the critical story line what do we do?  Here are FIVE important things that really work.
1.  Don’t be afraid of the thought.  Notice it and recognize it is not of God.  There’s nothing holy or humbling about self-critical thinking because God never accuses or condemns.  To merely engage the thought with more thinking isn’t effective.  Movement is necessary.
2.  Sit in Centering Prayer either more times during the day or longer periods of time. In this case more is more and more is best!  Yes, Centering Prayer is movement.
3.  Talk to someone.  I call my bestie soul friend who knows and loves me.  Her compassionate listening and loving input always puts me in a place of acceptance.  I confess to her my negative self introspection.  Just hearing the words come out of my mouth I start to feel the shift within me and the thoughts dissipate.
4.  If there’s a recurring thought, remember to bring it to your next Spiritual Direction appointment.  Unpacking it as your Spiritual Director holds you in the Light of this sacred space, is transforming.
5.  Remember God is in the movement.  I’m not talking about frenetic busyness or pressured action but movement.  Sometimes just putting your attention on making a good meal can be enough.
So right now, breathe deeply.  These self critical thoughts can sneak in on anyone, like dust floating in the air.   The next time one of ‘those’ thoughts floats across your mind, remember to be gentle with yourself.  Remember thoughts are not reality they just are and remember transformation, inner peace, freedom and purpose is possible through The Deeper Connection. 

The Tomb Is Empty, Now What?

The world just celebrated the highest holiday on the Christian calendar, Easter.  The day we honor the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the grave.  The day we celebrate new life.  

Spring reminds us that new life exists in all of nature, but Easter reminds us new life exists for each one of us.  Without the Resurrection we’d be left with no way out;  left dealing with the darkness our own wounds and dysfunction create.  Without the Resurrection we’d be faced with perpetuating these same wounds on others.  Without the Resurrection we’d be left with the impossible task of having to redeem our lives from the pit of our own despair.  We’d be left with the fact that a dysfunctional, false self can not transform itself into one’s true Self, one’s Christ Self for there would be no Christ self.  

Because Jesus lived truth, fully human and fully divine.  Because He showed it’s possible to live always in union with God the Father, the Creator.  Because His body absorbed the wounds from all of  humanity.   Because the death of His mortal body could not keep Him in the grave.  Because the Presence and Power of the Spirit of the Most High triumphed over death.  Because He lives we too can live.  Too great a mystery to comprehend, only to be received as pure gift.  There is just one major, existential question that Jesus walking out of the tomb creates, “Now what?” 

The only answer is to follow the Master into new life the way He taught and lived, the contemplative way.  The way of tending to your soul.

You are a follower of Christ wanting to answer the ‘now what?’ with your life.  You are a follower of Christ wanting to rise out of the darkness of codependency, anxiety and depression, addiction, grief, shame or whatever is keeping you stuck .  Have you been putting off whole-hearted living and tending to your soul?

Do you find yourself saying “Tomorrow, I’ll pay more attention to this transformation thing”.  “Tomorrow I’ll get to this prayer, meditation thing.”  “Tomorrow I’ll go to that recovery meeting.”  The list goes on.  Guess what?!  Tomorrow is today.  Resurrection life is now.  What does that mean for you?  Christ is tapping on your heart, shaking up your old belief system and patterns of thinking.  Does it seem a bit daunting?  You don’t have to do this new life on your own. 

The way has already been forged for you, but you have to take the steps to intentionally tend to your soul.  The Deeper Connection is here for you.  Spiritual Direction, Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina, a deeper prayer life, meditation, an intentional new way of living, is all possible.  You do not have to stay in your tomb.  You do not have to figure this out on your own.  You happened upon this blog article for a reason.  I’ve been where you are.  I have felt what it’s like to live in the dark and follow the Christ way out of the tomb.  

Contact me, like The Deeper Connection facebook page, listen to the prayer tracks on Insight Timer, subscribe to The Deeper Connection YouTube channel, schedule a Spiritual Direction appointment.  I would love to partner with you on your transformation journey, the contemplative way to new life.  It is time.


Before Tech Support

Here’s the back story leading up to my prayer encounter during my chat with email software tech support. I awoke that morning to the peace of a beautiful winter day. I was soon interrupted by anxiety when the realization of a very challenging financial situation crossed my computer screen as I opened up my online banking site. We all have fear triggers and I’ll be transparent here, one of mine is financial security. Couple that with some real financial challenges and I’m doing a face plant on my bedroom floor in prayer. Now, I absolutely love my ministry work and can’t imagine my life without it, to the point that, I can get so engaged in prayer, writing, recording, teaching, client sessions and more that I have to remind myself passion doesn’t pay the bills. This morning was one of those times when the trigger hit provoking a litany of doubts, “Am I really supposed to be doing this?” “If so, how do I keep a roof over my head?” “Am I doing something wrong or missing something I should be doing?” “Creating an online presence might be necessary but it’s so confusing!”

The voiceless Voice finally managed to get my attention in the brief gap between these thoughts and I heard, “Keep moving”. So, I returned to my computer and started plowing through some administrative and technical stuff. I got stuck on something when the little ‘live chat tech support’ window popped up as if prompted by an angel. No one but me knew I was struggling in that moment, or so I thought. I opened up a conversation with ‘Zoe’ and the rest you can read about in my blog post “Even Tech Support Needs Prayer”. (Pause here and read it, if you haven’t already.) I was humbled to the point of tears to say the least and grateful my ‘in the moment’ need for encouragement was met. God has shown me over and over again throughout the years, this is my work; inviting people into a deeper connection with our Most High God, themselves and others through contemplative Christianity. Inviting people into partnering with their Beloved as He transforms their lives. Inviting people to honor their stories of transformation and freely sharing mine. Reminding everyone, of who we truly are, the beloved of The Beloved. Perhaps most importantly, sharing my love of Christ, in my little way, letting the world know He is real, He is alive and He will meet you where you are.

Even Tech Support Needs Prayer

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not very tech savvy. So today I found myself in an online tech support chat with the email software provider I use for my ministry emails. Though I’m sometimes able to pick things up fairly quickly, I always have a lot of questions. The woman on the other end of the chat was very knowledgable, professional and oh so patient. She would not only answer my questions but would create a 30 second tutorial and send me the link. One time while helping me with a video upload, she took a little longer before responding. Then her question popped up in the window, “Is this your newsletter, are you the person on the video?” I answered, “I am.” She answered, “I just watched it and I want to thank you. I’m going through something hard right now and your prayer has helped me so much.” I was speechless. My fingers sat on the keyboard and my eyes welled up. I was truly taken aback by her openness. I immediately sent to her the links to my other videos with a prayer and a blessing. She said, “Well, you have another follower in me.”

The Spirit of our Most High God is always and in all ways healing. In that moment, I came to a clearer understanding that no matter who or where we encounter someone, they need God and everyone needs prayer whether they realize it or not. From the time I was a child, maybe because of challenging life experiences, I’ve always turned to prayer. It feels like a pure gift of the Holy Spirit. For it is God and God alone who draws all into His healing, loving Presence. The harvest is plentiful as God is calling in His workers even through live chats.

When Mindfulness Isn’t Enough

There may be a few people, a very small percentage of the world’s population, that are untouched by the present climate of anxiety and stress. These individuals, if they exist, are probably living ‘off the grid’ of what we call ‘normal’; having little or no contact with social media and news outlets.

The rest of us are trying to find our way, trying to create calm in the midst of chaos, peace in the midst of stress, serenity in the midst of anxiety, joy in the midst of loss, faith in the midst of doubt, trust in the midst of lies, confidence in the midst of fear, love in the midst of contempt. With hidden addictions, shame, guilt and remorse the rest of us are searching for any morsel of reality or a modicum of truth that will keep us from becoming a statistic.  The search for answers in spirituality is at an all time high.  Spiritual seekers and teachers are everywhere and any course, workshop, practice or meditation that promises some kind of peace at the end of the day, is in demand. 

Today I listened to a popular teacher of secular spirituality.  I respect him and his work, send him prayer and blessing.  He was encouraging individuals how they can change their lives by becoming more mindful.  That if they just used mindfulness practices and techniques, in a short period of time, their lives would greatly change for the better.  As I continued listening I heard something else.  Not from the teacher on the video, but from the Teacher within. 

That inner voiceless Voice spoke, ‘Cease striving and know that I Am God.’ In a moment Reality made this abundantly clear, it’s impossible for me to heal my own life. I’ve tried endlessly to escape all my fears, shame and guilt.  Only to arrive at the fact that I can not completely forgive myself and others for how our combined poor choices have wreaked havoc on my life. Bottom line is no matter how adept I get at any of these mindfulness practices I can not transform the inner workings and deepest motivations of my life.  The old thinking is always there. I might ‘feel’ a little better in the moment but I can not create a stress-free, peace-filled existence.  As I continued watching this very convincing, beautifully filmed video I recognized with great clarity, the only way to true transformation is not from me but through me.  The One and Only, who dwells in me, the Source of Love, Sustainer of Life, Creator God, Living Christ, Holiest Spirit who breathes through me, the Great Healer whose Presence I can not escape is the One who does the transforming.  The teachings that say it’s up to me to heal my life, can actually create more pressure and stress.  “How so?”, you might ask.  After all there are so many studies that prove how the brain responds to mindfulness meditation, etc.  I don’t deny that at all.  However, I believe that whether we acknowledge it or not, all healing comes from God, the Great Healer.  Surrendering to that Reality connects us to our God in a deep, profound way, clearing out the interference and foggy thinking that clouds our understanding and pulls us off course.  Striving and struggling with no intention toward surrender only creates more of the same.

Yes, we must willingly show up to silence, prayer, scripture and service, willingly show up to be transformed. That is our part.  However, the work really happens when we wholeheartedly consent and are present to the Presence, when we surrender to God’s Greater Work within.  For it’s not when we muster up more effort but when we relinquish our weakness.  Not when we acquire more knowledge but when we can admit to knowing nothing and fall into Divine Wisdom.  Not when we live perfectly, but when we acknowledge our flaws, embrace our failures, weep with our vulnerabilities, receive forgiveness and keep showing up. 

Any discipline, practice or level of understanding that supports our surrender is what will serve our transformation.  For as God has God’s way of love and healing in our lives, so too will the world be healed. We do not have to be about changing the world, rather allowing change to happen in each each one of us.  Yes, one person matters.  Each of us has a part to play that begins with surrender.  Remember, through one, Jesus the Christ, we’ve been shown the way of true life.  The way of surrender that leads to resurrection and eternal life.  Let it be so.  Let it be now.  Let it be.

How To Get Unstuck And Change Your Life

Feeling stuck?  Over and over again, repeating what you don’t want to do hoping one day you will arrive at the life you want. Why don’t  New Year’s resolutions work?  Because we can’t will ourselves into a new way of being and thinking.  We don’t really know what we want, or how to get it.  Then, if we do get ‘it’, whatever that might be, will it really make any difference?   You’re not doomed to keep repeating the same old patterns that keep you stuck, if you don’t want to.  The choice is up to you.  There is something you can do, and it doesn’t include setting more goals and gathering more information.  Rather, recognize this, you are enough, you have enough, but you don’t feel like it.  You feel stuck with no clear direction.  Don’t get discouraged.  Show up for your life in a new way, the  way of an active contemplative.  Take time, listen and follow the desire to seek God and transformation.  “But how?”, you might ask.  Jesus spoke two words to His would be apostles and disciples and the world was changed forever.  “Follow me” His great directive, called His chosen friends into action.  He didn’t tell them go get your life together, get rid of your dysfunctional, co-dependent, addictive behaviors THEN follow me. He didn’t say, ‘Go get spruced up, work on your strengths, lose that excess weight physically, emotionally and psychologically that’s keeping you down, THEN follow me.’  No, He simply looked them in the eye and said, “Follow me”.  What happened next changed the course of history.  One by one they dropped their personal agendas for happiness and did the only sane thing they could do.  They walked toward Him, they took one step and then another, day after day, walked with Him, listened to Him, prayed with Him, lived with Him.  A band of brothers and sisters recovering the lives they never knew they lost.  Finding the lives they never thought possible.  In essence they were stuck, lost, lonely and anxious until they showed up,  day after day and followed Christ.  Into the stillness of the desert,  the solitude of the mountainside; serving, listening and supporting one another.  How might this look in your life?  Here’s the active, contemplative way of following Christ I have found and live.  It has transformed me out of more dark valleys into green pastures than I can even remember.  My way of following Christ is threefold:  Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and Spiritual Direction.  Yes, there are other ways like corporate worship, study and serving, etc. but this three-way approach is the foundation of my life with Christ.

The Deeper Connection provides all three for you:  Spiritual Direction, Live Pray-in, and Centering Prayer

For more information and support I would love to jouney with you as you heed the call of our Beloved Master and hear Him say to you, “Follow me.”

Be Still and Turn

As published on Contemplative Light™ and Silence Teaches with Rich Lewis 

Being a Contemplative Christian does not exempt me from worry, fear and anxiety. It does, however, make a way through the challenging stuff of life creating opportunity for authentic transformation.

How does transformation translate into real world experience?  What does it look like?  What does it feel like As a single woman, business owner, mother, grandmother and Spiritual Director, life can feel overwhelming at times. Primarily when I let some situation trigger me into creating a fictitious story in my mind about what could happen, rather than what is happening, in the moment. Perhaps you can I identify with this?  From the story comes fear, worry and all the ‘what ifs’ that cause the stressful feelings of being overwhelmed. The story takes on a life of it’s own and worry quickly becomes fear that quickly turns into anxiety. So then what?

Sometimes I berate myself for not trusting God more.  Sometimes I pray more, or pray less. Other times I distract myself with family or work. Yet all of the time God’s gentle, relentless voiceless Voice breathes deep within, “Be still and turn to me.”  What I’ve come to learn is in times like this if I just become still, my mind is drawn to ‘the story’ and focuses on the overwhelming feeling that’s tossing me around like driftwood on a storm tossed wave.  It’s the ‘turn’ within the stillness that changes everything.  To turn toward God, means I must turn from the story and the feelings associated with it, releasing my white knuckle grip on fear and my small reality.  

So how do you turn? Some of us struggle with this concept of turning. What does that mean and more importantly how do you do it? What helps you release your focus on the story or challenge? I’ve included here 7 Ways to Turn Toward God. Use any or all of these tools every day to help guide you into a deeper connection with God, yourself and others.

7 Ways to Turn Toward God

  1. Become aware of your breathing and notice your mind creating the story like you’re watching a movie. Let the scenes pass by without becoming emotionally engaged. Remember, you are simply watching the scenes from the audience. You aren’t in the movie.
  2. Choose a prayer word or short phrase that you repeat over and over again as needed. My favorite word is “Jesus.” Yours may be “God” or “Yahweh.”
  3. Use your favorite prayer track on the Insight Timer mobile app. My fave is St. Patrick’s Prayer which I recorded to help my soul friends arise out of bed every morning.
  4. Schedule a spiritual direction consult. There are spiritual directors all around the world. Go to sdiworld.org to find someone locally or go to thedeeperconnection.org and book a session to work with me virtually.
  5. Subscribe to The Deeper Connection YouTube channel. You can pray with me and countless other soul friends right on screen.
  6. Download my Wake Up on the Inside Morning Meditation Tool
  7. Purchase my It Is Time CD. If you don’t have time for centering prayer, listening to even one of the teaching tracks will help you turn from your present train of thoughts.

In a simple moment, any or all of these gentle inner ‘turns’ creates the space for faith to move, for the Spirit to breathe and trust emerges.  I can not will the ‘overwhelm’ away.  I can not muster up trust.  I can only choose to be still and let my mustard seed of faith prompt me to turn.  For in that turning, God calms the strongest waves and transformation happens.

Who is Maria?

Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

The Light in Darkness

In my darkest hour…there was Light…

There was nothing easy about going through a divorce. The guilt, shame and darkness was debilitating. Just as overwhelming were the insidious temptations to comfort and appease my pain with the immediate gratifications readily provided by the world.

When I gave up the self-defensive, victim posturing I was left to face my immense shame alone. That was when it happened.

One afternoon I could not move from my bed. My heart was heavy and I felt paralyzed by the darkness. I could not move a muscle. Breathing became difficult as the heaviness bore down on me. It felt like I was suffocating in my shame. The only movement was that of the racing and pounding in my chest. I could not speak. I could not justify or defend. I could not retreat into the Silence.
I could not even cry out for help. I could barely think. Nothing made sense.

Though I felt like God was far from me I managed to allow my mind say the name of Jesus. I have been saying the name of Jesus as my ‘prayer word’ since I was a small child. Now, it was all I could muster up. I was too weary to speak but I let my mind repeat ‘Jesus’ just as that frightened little girl did decades ago. I cannot say that I saw a blinding Light pierce through my darkness, nor can I say I felt any semblance of peace. What I was able to do was breathe that was all. As I breathed in and out and in and out the miracle took place.

In one brief moment I let go of my ‘white knuckle grip’ on my reality and God wasted no time revealing quite a different Reality. I became conscious of Christ. I couldn’t see or hear anything different but I could feel the Presence supporting and sustaining each breath holding my heart and soul. The anxiety and shame did not spontaneously dissipate. The miracle is that this loving, conscious Presence was right there in the midst of the debilitating feelings, thoughts and pain. Christ was present precisely in my woundedness, my darkest, most self-incriminating hour. Christ came as the Presence of no judgment, no condemnation and unconditional love. ‘How could this be?’, I thought. I remained there. I have no idea how long. After a while the freedom from this truth of ‘no condemnation’ started settling into me and the heaviness began to lift.

That is how I knew it was not my own mind or ego but the Reality of God breaking through. I could not create this feeling of freedom for I never felt it before in my life. I had no idea it even existed and therefore had no frame of reference. The miracle was organically experiencing the meaning of the words, ‘for there is no condemnation…I did not come to condemn…but to free you…who is here to judge you?’.
(John 8:7)

I experience that freedom to this day.

Who is Maria?

Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.