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A New Look at the Meaning of Winning and Losing

I finally won The Red Lantern Award!

The Winner of The Red Lantern Award

The mystic, Meister Eckhart said that:

God is not attained by…a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction.

Huh??? Say what???

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard or read about this spiritual concept…but its actual meaning always seems to stump me! In fact, all in all, I think it’s a very tough idea for any of us to wrap our heads around.

A Course in Miracles calls it an undoing and says:

Our task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Whoa. You mean I have to get rid of all my illusions, all of my fantasies, all of my fears, all of my self-righteous indignations, all of my grudges, judgments and resentments, all of my romanticized versions of how my life should be? In other words – pardon the word! – all of the bullshit that I have been feeding myself and accumulating over the course of a lifetime?

Whoa. This sounds to me like a mighty tough assignment…and one that could require a change in perception in just about every area of my life that I don’t see with the eyes of love…including myself. I think it was William James who said:

Have patience with all things, but first of all, with yourself.

Have you ever heard of a prize called the Red Lantern Award? Apparently, there is a dog sled race every year in Alaska – that we all know about – in which racers and their dog teams cover 1,045 grueling miles across rugged terrain during extreme weather conditions.

Well, of course there is always a winner of the race. But did you know that there is another award that is always given out? It’s the Red Lantern Award that goes to the musher who comes in last! It represents the perseverance and the tenacity it takes to finish, even when you’re dead last.

It’s easy to measure the time it takes to complete a race; it is much harder to measure courage, steadfastness, resiliency and determination…and even give yourself credit for it. After all, we are a society that relishes finishing first in just about everything.

As I was reading about this, I realized that I myself qualify for a Red Lantern Award! For four years running, I organized spiritual retreats that took place in the mountains of Brazil, four hours north of Rio de Janeiro. On the last day, everybody who was in good enough shape would climb to the highest peak of one of the nearby mountains. Guess who took a pass for three years?

On the last and fourth trip, I was determined to give it a try, no matter how bad a shape I was in, no matter how unathletic I happen to be. It was truly a challenge and was certainly only through the Grace of God that I was able to take that final step to join everybody at the peak – a full hour after the rest of them had arrived!

I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life as witnessed by this picture I wanted to share with you – which is my favorite picture of me of all times…sweaty, red-faced and messy as I may be.

I gave up my fantasy about being first in everything; I gave up my embarrassment and self-consciousness about knowing I would definitely come in last, if at all; I gave up my judgments of myself for not exercising enough or for not having the perfect figure. I let go of some of the barriers I had to loving myself…and I think I got a little closer to God in the process of climbing that mountain!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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