Sunday, October 30, 2016

It is not spiritually healthy to play the victim

Sometimes we all love to play the victim. Some of us more of the time that others. For some it is their default position in life. When people habitually play the victim the ego has conquered their lives and made their lives a hell.

As a children of God none of us are victims except in our own minds. Our victimhood is a figment of our ego's imagination. Victimhood is not are true state. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "Teach no one he has hurt you, for if you do, you teach yourself that what is not of God has power over you. The causeless cannot be." T-14.III.8:2-3

Rather than victimhood, we can call upon the Holy Spirit for guidance in helping us achieve an awareness of our true invulnerability as spiritual creatures inhabiting, temporarily, bodies that get caught up in drama of attack and suffering on the ego plane but which is not real in the spiritual realm.

For today rise above the baloney and hurt, and return evil with love knowing that the evil is not real and its only power to hurt you spiritually and psychologically is the power you give to it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to grow your soul

A Course In Miracles is a difficult text for most people to read for a number of reasons. However, the main ideas in the course are simple. The first idea is that the opposite of love is fear and fear blocks are awareness of Love's presence.

Neuroscience has found that the default position in the brain of homo sapiens which has survival value and so this default position has been favored in our evolution is fear, the flight or fight response of the amygdala. The rustling in the bushes we hear may be a tiger or a person with a gun getting ready to mug or rape us.

It takes a conscious effort sometimes for us to use our prefrontal cortex, the reasoning part of our brain to override the fight or fight response of the amygdala. The synaptic connections in our brains are plastic. They can be changed with consistent practice. Mother Teresa said that we should be kind to every one and start with the person next to us. Jesus said to love our enemies. This change in behavior takes conscious effort and does not come to us automatically.

Virtues are acquired habits of mind, intention, and behavior. They usually do not come to us "naturally" but must be developed as habits of character. Ask yourself, "Can I be deliberately kind today to people I don't like, who scare me, and I disagree with."

Yes, we can if we decide to. It takes effort, it takes awareness, it takes intention, it takes action.

Today, start being kind to people you don't like and you disagree with and/or feel threatened by. Watch your soul grow.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Tao, the Link is with us always

"Caught in our prejudices,
we act as puppets,
moving in lockstep
to the beat of commerce.

All emerges from the Tao,
all returns to the Tao in time.
Meanwhile darkness deepens,
bringing fear and despair.
Darkness faced, however,
opens into daylight."

William Martin, The Activist's Tao Te Ching, p.11

A Course in Miracles teaches that here on earth we have a dichotomous mind which loves contrast, comparison, the ying and yang, but this is not so in heaven where all is one with God. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "Contrast and differences are necessary teaching aids, for by them you learn what to avoid and what to seek. When you have learned this, you will find the answer that makes the need for differences disappear. When you have learned that you belong to truth, it will flow lightly over you without a difference of any kind." T-13.XI,6:3-6

Awareness is the quality of mind which brings peace. Higher awareness, sometimes called higher consciousness, is the goal of life culminating in what some call enlightenment. ACIM assures us that the link between ourselves and God cannot be broken even if we wish it broken. "The Communication Link that God Himself placed within you, joining your mind with His, cannot be broken. You may believe you want It broken, and this belief does interfere with the deep peace in which the sweet and constant communication God would share with you is known." T-13.XI.8:1-2

For today, pay attention to the divine spark within you, the Link. It is there, it always will be there, and like a spark it can be fanned into flame, holy fire of illumination and energy which lights up the world.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What makes human beings love war so?

"Ideas, concepts, and words
have separated us from life.
Masquerading as friends,
they have made us enemies
of each other."

William Martin, The Activist's Tao Te Ching, p.11

We fight with each other and hate each other and injure and even kill each other and we do not even know why. Emotions of the moment drive us to evil for which we can only grieve and lament. And after all the carnage, things seem to right themselves and we go back to living as if it never happened. What makes humans beings fight war? If not with guns, then with words.

Will human beings ever become more aware and in control of their emotions and reason? Most human beings are not very spiritually developed.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Will you play the role of the enlightened witness and save the soul of America?

We usually think of the soul as an individual thing but then we recognize such a thing as team spirit and the soul of a nation. There is such a thing as group consciousness, and we recognize the concept of a "culture" as being a helpful idea.

The soul of a nation can be thought of as made up of the predominant norms and attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices. These norms and attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices can be further thought of as dysfunctional or functional, functional meaning that they enhance the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual functioning of the individuals who participate in that culture.

Once looked at from this perspective, the question can be asked, "does racism enhance the functioning of the members of a culture? The answer based on research is no. Racism has a negative impact on the person with the racist belief as much as it has a negative impact on the target.

The problem is that people with racist attitudes are not aware of how the racism negatively impacts them and others. If they were more aware they would no longer allow racism to influence their thoughts, attitudes, values, and behavior.

The problem of racism evidenced by the building of walls and the demonizing of groups of people is that it corrupts the functional soul of America. It brings suffering on us all and by extension to the whole world.

What is to be done about racism?

It must be identified, acknowledged, and treated to diminish, if not eliminate, its influence on our culture. There are many ways to treat racism once it has been diagnosed. The best way is by the introduction of alternative stories which are positive about the people in the groups being oppressed and subjugated. Empathic understanding comes from getting to know "the other" better which dissolves racist ideas at their core. The understanding that we are all God's children, unconditionally loved is key. This empathic understanding may need to come first from changing people's behavior. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he had no illusions about changing the attitudes of a racist. He was not intending to simply change their attitudes, but he wanted to change their behavior. The civil rights act made many racist practices of segregation illegal. Walling people off is more a symbolic than a practical solution to creating security and safety when people have been influenced to fear "the other."

The spiritually aware can make a huge difference in a culture by being what is called "enlightened witnesses." They are the soothers, the reassures, the ones who manifest compassion and loving kindness.

With whom can you share your witness today?

For more on the role of enlightened witness in society click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The soul of America

The sexism, bigotry, racism, greed, hatred and xenophobia that emanated from the United States Republican Convention this past week from July 18 - 21, 2016 calls into question the soul of America.

The observation that these ideas are supported by a group of Americans might lead one to question the spiritual well being of part of the nation.

It is too easy to say "let us pray for them". It also is condescending and patronizing because these misguided people are part of us and deserve out love, compassion, and acceptance, but we also have an obligation to set appropriate limits and hold accountable those who advocate for hate and would hurt groups of people.

How does one set appropriate limits and work to decrease and maybe even eliminate the racism, sexism, bigotry, xenophobia, and vanity that was spewed encouraging followers to lock up and even kill people who oppose these evil ideas?

The first and most important step is identifying and naming the evil. Demonization and exclusion promise safety, security, and increased well being, but they do not deliver what they promise. Usually demonization and exclusion beget more of the same and a tit for a tat dynamic is generated which is destructive for all participants no matter which side is taken.

Second, Jesus tells us, counter-intuitively, that we should love our enemies. Demonization and exclusion protest that this makes no sense and will only increase the risk of harm and yet, at a spiritual level, if one has achieved the higher levels of spirituality, one is aware of paradox, and recognizes that the fear injected into us is an illusion because as a spiritual being we realize that harm and death to our spirits are not real. We have just unthinkingly believed it.

Third, given the awareness of the tricks that demonization and exclusion are playing on us, we laugh at the silliness of the situation. The risk that demonization and exclusion claim to protect us from never existed. It is a figment of our imaginations being triggered by fear mongering so that we will give up our power to those who would dominate and control us, and profit from us.

Fourth, we make another choice. We choose love, compassion, brotherhood, and inclusion because we know that we are all in this thing called Life together and our fulfillment comes from helping each other achieve the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Moving in this direction our spiritual health as a nation will be nurtured.

Fifth, we act in ways to include, to nurture, to support, to lift up and build up all people, everywhere. In short, loving kindness will restore the soul of America and we can do things every day to manifest this in our daily lives enhancing the lives of others as well as ourselves. This is how God will bless America working through the loving kindness manifested in our mutual lives together.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Life isn't fair!"

Joan complained to me "It's not fair. How can God allow these things to happen!?"

Joan is at stage 2 using James Fowler's model of stages of faith development. Stage 2 is what he calls "Mythic-literal." In every day speech, people at his stage of faith development are called "fundamentalists."

Fundamentalists believe in the literal interpretation of what they consider to be sacred texts, the revealed words of their God. They also believe in an orderly world based on reciprocity and fairness, an eye for eye, the Code of Hammurabi.

This stage of faith is very soothing for believers because it makes order out of what they perceive to be a chaotic world and thus reduces their anxiety and enhances a sense of security and predictability. People in recovery from addictions find this stage of faith very helpful in reorganizing their lives in a more constructive way. Also children in elementary school years find this stage of faith development helpful in creating rules and roles they should play and expect others to play as they make sense out of an unfamiliar and sometimes threatening world.

Stage 2 faith works for a while with its literalness and articulated understanding of fairness, but it can't last forever because life is full of paradox and is not always just and then what is a person to do, believe, and how is a person to manage mixed feelings?

For today take comfort in what you understand to be the order of the universe and what you understand to be fair and just, but remain open and flexible if contradictions, paradoxes, and injustice come your way. Life is not to lived based on a recipe or a protocol. It is to be lived as an adventure and in the last analysis as a mystery.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why are there people in the world?

James Fowler in his book, Stages of Faith, asks a child of ten, "Why are there people in the world?" and she answers, "People in the world? Let's see. If there weren't any people, there wouldn't really be a world. And if there wasn't a world then the world would be blank. I mean everything - that's a tough question. Let's see. Why would there be people.?" p. 137

A follow up question to the same child was what the world would be like if she wasn't in it.

It's one thing to mess around with kids asking them these questions, but I got to imagining how the average adult in the United States in 2016 would answer these questions; Why are there people in the world, and how would the world be different if you weren't in it?

I would guess that the answers would run something along these lines: people are in the world to make it a better place and to help bring God's creation to perfection, and I'm here to assist in this process.

And then, I began to wonder if this is true. If it is, it is rarely reflected in our media, our politics, our arts these days.

I met a man from Australia in Washington, DC at Arlington Cemetery traveling with his family for a month in the United States and I asked him what stood out for him in his visit to the states and he said, "How courteous and polite and friendly everyone is."

I said, "You'd never know it from the media what with Donald Trump wanting to wall off Mexicans and keep out the Muslims," and the man said to me, "we have our conservative politicians in  Australia too" and dismissed the subject.

Of my five day trip to Washington, DC, my encounter with this man was the high point of my trip. I wonder what he would have said in response to the questions about why there are people in the world and how would it be different if he weren't in it. I feel blessed by my encounter and I am certainly glad he is in the same world I am in and I had a chance to meet him.

Friday, July 15, 2016

If you would find your real life, lose the counterfeit one with all the drama

A friend of mine asked , Jesus says in Matthew 10:39 "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." It is written in the seventh chapter of the Tao Te Ching that because the master has let go of himself, he is perfectly fulfilled. These statements seem paradoxical, contradictory. I don't get it. What do they mean?

I tried to answer as best I could because I'm not sure I get it either, at least not in my dichotomous mind which wants to reduce things to their component parts and think things through in a logical way. 

In order to understand the paradox of losing your life to find it, you have to think systemically and intuitively. It has been taught in A Course In Miracles, and in other mystical traditions, that the ego world is not real. We have made it up when we separated ourselves from godliness. We did this when we thought we knew better than God. This separation is alluded to in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge. The so called "original sin" was thinking that we can create our own universe apart from God and as we become more aware and conscious we come to realize that our creations, our drama on the ego plane, is not real and not what we really want. In fact we often experience our ego creations and drama as hell. Jesus says to us simply, "drop it." This so called "life" you have created with all its drama, pain, and suffering is just nonsense. You cannot find your real life until you get rid of this false life which you have made up and participate in. As you point out, it says the same thing in the Tao Te Ching. We can't be fulfilled until we let the bull shit go.

One of my favorite bumper stickers says, "Don't believe everything you think." A lot of the stuff we think and then believe is fraudulent, counterfeit, not the real deal. Both Jesus and the Tao Te Ching are teaching us to detach from the life on the ego plane which we have created in our own minds.

So, for today, let go and let God as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. Surrender to your Higher Power whatever you conceive your Higher Power to be. Admit that your life is unmanageable and let go and let God. While it is scary to do this at first, being willing to surrender to the Will of God, to the Tao brings blessed peace.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

A woman complained to me the other day, "I have lived a good life. I try to do the right thing. I have made many sacrifices for my family and friends and yet bad things happen to me. My mother died last year from a heart attack at 63, and my brother who was only 32 was killed in a car accident 3 months ago, and now my best friend has breast cancer. I can't understand why God would do these things to me. I've stopped going to church because this whole religion thing seems so fraudulent. To be honest, I'm angry with God for taking these people from me. What kind of a God does such things?"

People who are functioning with this mindset are at what James Fowler describes as the third stage of faith, conventional. People in the conventional stage not only play by the rules, but they believe in the importance and significance of the rules. They believe in some code such as the ten commandments, the constitution, and/or some other ethical code.

Following the rules and believing in the rules provides a psychological and cognitive structure which binds anxiety in the individual and governs interactions with others. Rules make for a predictable and more secure context within which to live one's life. People who find these rules, and the structure rules provide, comforting and useful cannot understand how atheists and secular humanists can be good people and have good lives because they seem to be living without the rule book.

The woman who questions above believes that she has followed the rules and appears to believe that following the rules will prevent negative events. The fact that what she believes are negative events have occurred has created for her a crisis of belief. The God she has believed in she now thinks has failed to follow the rules. Her God has betrayed her and she withdraws her belief and commitment to him.

The woman's belief in the rules is a normal stage of faith development. She not only obeys the rules but she believes and upholds the existence of the code. It is a distressful realization that following the code does not guarantee what she perceives to be safety. Even further, she may realize that some of the rules are not just and appropriate. She has failed to recognize until now that her belief in the code is a social construction which is based on convention not on some divine revelation. Her belief in the divine revelation of the code is superstitious and magical. Hopefully she will come to realize that "God" did not allow her mother and brother to die or her friend to get breast cancer which threatens to take her friendship from her. These are events on the ego plane which God has no power over.

Hopefully, after her anger over her sense of divine betrayal dissipates she will come to understand that her belief in a God who distributes justice is childish. God knows nothing of justice, but only of love which Jesus taught and demonstrated over and over again. Something which, at this woman's stage of faith development, she was not able to grasp.

Humans create all kinds of ego drama which God knows nothing of because this drama is not of God. Humans have separated themselves from the love of God and develop all kinds of rules about how to protect themselves from their guilt and shame of doing so by appeasing what they unconsciously believe is a wrathful, vengeful creature. When their appeasing behavior doesn't appear to work, they become angry with that creature thinking he didn't keep his side of the bargain.

Out of this crisis of belief, comes a dawning realization that life is not governed by rules of convention. Doubt and questioning begins to emerge in the person's mind and they find that they are losing the faith that others have taught them. They no longer feel that they fit into the group of believers of which they have felt a part.

This doubt, this questioning, this rebellion is what Osho calls the first step on the spiritual path. The person starts to search for a faith of her own and is no longer willing to just accept the rules she has been taught by others. What, if anything, do you think authority figures have told you that isn't true? Do you think they really believe what they are teaching themselves? If you don't believe what they are teaching is true, then how do you proceed?

I replied to the woman above who asked, "'What kind of a God does such things?' that's an excellent question. What ideas do you have about that?"

She said, "No God I can continue to believe in. I'm too angry at him."

I said, "Good! I'd be angry with him too if I were you. Your belief in him and his rules have really let you down. Once you have come to terms with your grief over your mother's and brother's deaths and your fear about your friend's illness, you can reflect and consider what you are learning from these very painful experiences about life. There are other ways of looking at and understanding these experiences if you are interested."

She said, "Maybe some other time. This is just not a good time for me."

I said, "Okay. When you are ready, if you want to talk more about these things, let me know."

"Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome," I replied.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Have you subscribed to Notes On The Spiritual Life?

Did you know that you can subscribe to Notes On The Spiritual Life and receive an email update when new articles are posted? It's a good way to stay in touch and work on your spiritual life on a regular basis.

What matters to me the most in my life is ____________

A 15 year old young man asked me what I thought of people who have no faith. I said, "Everyone has faith in something. They have faith in something which they think will make them happy. It may be faith in money, friends, new clothes, their sports team, it can be any number of things. If you want to know what a person puts their faith in ask them to answer this question. The thing that matters the most to me in my life is __________. What do they fill in the blank with?"

The young man said, "So you don't believe in atheists?"

"Atheist is one of those categories that monotheistic deity believers have made up. No I don't believe in atheism. Like I said, everyone believes in something even the nihilists who believe in nothing and death."

"Okay," the young man said. "I appreciate your thinking."

"What do you believe in?" I asked.

"My family," he said.

As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, "And so it goes............."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Tao is the Great Mother as The Father is the source of our being and the base of the Atonement

It is written in the sixth chapter of the Tao Te Ching: "The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want." (Stephen Mitchell translation."

It is written in A Course In Miracles; "Use no relationship to hold you to the past, but with each one each day be born again. A minute, even less, will be enough to free you from the past, and give your mind in peace over to the Atonement. When everyone is welcome to you as you would have yourself be welcome to your Father, you will see no guilt in you. For you will have accepted the Atonement, which shone within you all the while you dreamed of guilt, and would not look within and see it." T-13.X.5:2-5

Is God, The Father, of A Course In Miracles, the same as the Great Mother of the Tao Te Ching? Both the Tao Te Ching and ACIM counsel us to look within as the source of our being with which we are one with everything, "inexhaustible," and the source of the "infinite worlds" which make up the Atonement.

The monk said to the hot dog vendor, "Make me one with everything," and I imagine Him saying "coming right up" and "you only need to look within because you are one with everything already."

Today look for the divine spark first within yourself and blow on it to fan it into a flame and then look for the divine spark in every person you meet and blow on their spark as well. Before you know it we will have a roaring blaze of people joining in one spirit to save the world.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Stage 3 of faith development - What it looks like in a coffee shop

I was sitting in a coffee shop chatting with a group of guys and one of them said quite seriously, "My problem is that my wife does not walk in the way of the Lord and recognize me as the ultimate authority and decision-maker in our marriage."    

I was tempted to ask him where he got this idea that he should be the ultimate authority over his wife but I restrained myself because I didn't want to hear his repetition of bible verses or have him tell me that this is the teaching of the church he attends.

This man made a statement indicative of stage 3 using Fowler's model of faith development. Stage 3 is defined as "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to authority and the religious development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.

This man seems stuck and I wondered if his marriage was in trouble? I wondered further how rigidly he held to this belief and whether he might be amenable to more flexibility.

I said to this fellow, "Jesus was about love and true love is not concerned with authority because the opposite of love is fear and authoritative people tend to be insecure and their beliefs and emotions are fear based. I am not sure that God intends you to be the boss of your wife and family, but intends for you to love them unconditionally."

He asked me if I was born again.

I said, "Yes, but probably not in the way you are meaning."

He said, "Come to church with me, hear the word, and you'll come to understand."

I said I would make a deal with him and come with him to his church if he would come with me to mine. He said he couldn't make any promises. He would have to consult first with his pastor.

I said, "I have found it interesting that people want to share their religious views with other people, but rarely want other people to share their religious views with them."

"Why would they," he said, "if they already have the truth."

I bid him a good day, asked him to let me know what his pastor advised, and continued with my day intending to love and serve the Lord of my understanding.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Miracles are natural. When they do not occur something has gone wrong.

The sixth miracle principle in A Course In Miracles is:

T-1.I.6     Miracles are natural.  When they do not occur something has gone wrong.

Kenneth Wapnick writes in his commentary on the 50 miracle principles about the sixth principle, "The course teaches us that the most natural thing in this world is to be at peace and one with God, because peace comes from the Holy Spirit within us." p. 32 It is our egos which obstruct and block our awareness of Love's presence. In other words one person is not holier than an other. As the Universalists have taught us we all are unconditionally loved by God, the Spirit of Life. Some people have erected more impediments to the awareness of Love's presence or they have not purified their lives of these impediments so their awareness is dim. Jesus was a master as have the other enlightened people who have walked and walk this earth. Enlightenment means to become aware of Love's presence and to have removed or overcome all the impediments to this awareness.

 How do we encourage spiritual growth? According to this principle of ACIM, the awareness of Love's presence is natural and when we lose this awareness something has gone wrong. And what is it that has gone wrong? It is the ascension of our egos, our sense of specialness, our separation from God and the Body of Christ, the communion of saints, the peace and oneness with God. Universalism teaches that we are all are one and yet in our daily lives we forget. God, I imagine, laughs with us because we behave and think so stupidly. God laughingly says to us, "Don't believe everything you think because it is your ego that is playing tricks on you and makes you believe in things which in the last analysis are no real threat to you at all. Once you have become aware of this you will experience my peace."

As the saying goes, "Everything will be all right in the end, and things are not all right now, it's just because we are not at the end yet."

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spiritual people are people of peace and joy.

The eight principle of the 50 principles of miracles in A Course In Miracles is "Miracles are healing because they supply a lack; they are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less."

The ego doesn't allow us to know what we lack. The ego operates on the scarcity principle meaning that we always have anxiety that we are inadequate or deficient in some way and so we spend our energy trying to soothe our anxiety by getting more. However, what we lack is God. We are suffering from the separation from God and from each other.  Jesus tells us as much when he tells his followers that the way to the kingdom is "to love as I have loved."

What this eight principle points to is the observation that some of us have a more loving heart than others and those with a more loving heart are called to help those who are less loving. This is a temporary phenomenon until those with less love catch up with those with more love. Love is all around us. Tune in and then broadcast it as you go about your daily routine living with Love. This idea reminds me of the bumper sticker, "If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours." Spiritual people are people of peace and joy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Don't take sides between good and evil but welcome both and live beyond the dichotomy

It is written in A Course In Miracles:

"The guilty always condemn, and having done so they will still condemn, linking the future to the past as is the ego's law. Fidelity to this law lets no light in, for it demands fidelity to darkness and forbids awakening." T-13.IX.1:2-3

It is written in the fifth chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

"The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil. The Master doesn't take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners." (Stephen Mitchell translation)

Jesus says in Matthew 18:21-22: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!…

It takes a big person to forgive and rise above guilt. According to James Fowler this is stage 6 consciousness at the level of universality. People at this stage have overcome fear and in their loving embrace of other people and life they don't seem normal or even trust worthy to people who, out of their insecurity, adhere and comply with conventional norms and attitudes. Loving people who see no guilt in others are unsettling. Whose side are they on after all?

When have you refused to take sides and welcomed everyone? When have you looked past the hate and attacks by others and looked for their good side? Do you hold grudges? Do you throw things up to people that they have done in their past when you are angry with them? Do you believe as former President Richard Nixon said one time that the best defense is a good offense?

It is written in ACIM, " Do not be afraid to look within. The ego tells you all is black with guilt within you, and bids you not to look. Instead, it bids you look upon your brothers, and see the guilt in them." T-13.IX.8:1-3

Look within and what you fear you will see is not very deep if it is there at all. Don't believe the negative and shameful things that other people have told you, you are. You are the lovable child of God and God doesn't make junk.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Tao is like a well: used but never used up.

It is written in A Course In Miracles:

"Yet in this world your perfection is unwitnessed. God knows it, but you do not, and so you do not share His witness to it. Nor do you witness to His Son and to Himself. The miracles you do on earth are lifted up to Heaven and to Him. They witness to what you do not know, and they reach the gates of Heaven, God will open them. For never would He leave His Own beloved Son outside of them, and beyond Himself." T-13.VIII.10:1-7

What does this passage mean?

In the Tao Te Ching it is written in chapter 4, "The Tao is like a well: used but never used up. It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities. It is hidden but always present. I don't know who gave birth to it. It is older than God. (Stephen Mitchell translation)

And so we see glimmers, inklings of the divine nature of which we are a part, but we cannot know it all, the whole enchilada. It is too big, too mysterious, too all encompassing.

We do what we can to share our sightings of it. ACIM calls these shifts in perceptions "miracles," and indeed they are experienced as such. We realize at this stage of faith that these sightings can come from many sources. The favorite bumper sticker for people at this stage is "My God is too big for any one religion."

For today, attempt to get into and stay in a meditative space where you can appreciate the wholeness, the systemic aspect of your perceptions. Realize that the focus of your attention is only a small part of the whole. Be aware that we are all in this thing called Life together and it is like a well used but never used up and used for infinite possibilities that we can only begin to imagine on the smallest scale. Being able to get into this space also involves the giving up of attachments to money, family, country, things which we previously sought to enhance our security. Our growing awareness is that security comes not from attachments to the various elements of our ego world, but from our deep and abiding sense of the well filled with infinite possibilities which come from the one source which is beyond understanding. May we humbly accept and give thanks for what little grace of awareness that we are given.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fears are the blocks to our awareness of Love's presence

The three spiritual stages described in the Christian tradition are the purgative, illuminative, and unitive. These stages of spiritual growth, experienced by the seeker, take the person to union with God. The purgative path involves the purification of the soul, ridding oneself of the ego. The illuminative path is the surrendering one's will to the holy spirit, Jesus, the Higher Power to enter more fully into the spiritual life. The unitive path is becoming one with godliness and achieving a cosmic consciousness.

The major obstacle to pursuing this path of spiritual growth is fear. Fear is borne out of our attachments to ourselves, to others, and to things. As the Buddhist tradition teaches, all suffering is caused by attachment. We fear losing relationships and things that are important to us. We are even afraid of losing face and being slighted and hurt by what we perceive as the unkind words of others injuring our ego.

Our biggest fear is that at our core we are defective and inadequate. Unconsciously, we experience the shame of not being okay. So we put our best foot forward and we build a wall of defenses around ourselves to keep the anxiety of this shame at bay. As toddlers we have our teddy bear, our dolly, our blankie and we suck our thumbs, bite our nails, and finger our hair. As we get older we learn our prayers, have our favorite piece of clothing or other object and develop superstitious beliefs in religious, sports, music, and other celebrity figures most of whom we have never met but about whom we develop all kinds of fantasies and beliefs.

As we mature we realize that these defensive beliefs and objects are illusionary. As much as we like the idea and are comforted by it, we realize that Santa is not a real person. It is our parents, if they are able, who leave the gifts for us under the tree which we find on Christmas morning. We come to realize that our mother and father are not all powerful, but who have problems and flaws and cannot always be depended on to love us the way we want to be loved.

All people grow old, this is inevitable, but many people do not grow up. Growing old and growing up are two different things and sometimes don't occur at the same time. Religious beliefs often have the quality of the belief in Santa. It is a superstitious belief whose function is to reduce fear and anxiety and provide an illusion of safety brought about by the fantasy of supernatural protection similar to the belief in Super Powers so popular now in our contemporary culture. What we fail to realize is that, at our core, we are perfect. We are not defective or inadequate in anyway because our very existence is  a manifestation of godliness and all human beings have an inherent worth and dignity. Becoming consciously aware of our divine nature, we can drop our fears, we are already okay. As we become more aware that our essential nature is one of Love we become less anxious and more secure. Realizing our essential nature we behave more loving, generous, compassionate, and forgiving for these are the manifestations of godliness of which we realize now that we are a part.

The key to dealing with fear and anxiety is to realize what we are and to rise above our attachments, take them in stride, keep them in perspective, keep calm and simply do the next best right thing as the opportunity arises. The opposite of fear is love and as it says in A Course In Miracles, "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance." The stages of "removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence" are described, as mentioned at the beginning, as purgative, illuminative, and unitive. Where are you on the path?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Recognizing the divine spark in every human being acknowledges the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

What did Jesus mean when He said that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first in the Kingdom of Heaven?"

Spiritually mature people believe that every “person has worth and dignity, not just some. This is not ordinary thinking in our society among the spiritually immature who believe that a person's worth is strongly based on merit. The spiritually immature see the world as made up of winners and losers.
For the spiritually immature it is very hard to be kind, not just nice, compassionate toward, and not condescending, humble with, and not patronizing towards those we perceive as our inferiors. The stumbling block in applying the affirming and promoting of the inherent worth and dignity of every person is our fears. We are afraid of our own inferiority and inadequacy so we put people down, below us, so we don’t feel so low. By comparison with people we consider inferior we fell superior and better.

Recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person requires a mature spirituality that involves keeping our ego in check. The spiritually mature person recognizes that we are all in this thing called "Life" together. We share in the essential nature of Godliness and as Peace Pilgrim said one time, "I look for the divine spark in each person I meet and I focus on that." May you recognize that divine spark in yourself and your fellow creatures today.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

16 Reflections On The First Principle Of Unitarian Universalism: The Inherent Worth And Dignity Of Every Person

The book, 16 Reflections On The First Principle Of Unitarian Universalism: The Inherent Worth And Dignity Of Every Person, is available at all outlets of King Street Books and/or by sending a request for a free copy to or through by clicking on the widget below.

To attain peace which surpasses understanding we must surrender our ego

"Go into your fear. Silently enter into it, so you can find its depth. And sometimes it happens that it is not very deep."

Osho, Fear: Understanding and Accepting The Insecurities of Life.

"The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite."

A Course In Miracles, Introduction

"What is fear made of? Fear is made of ignorance of one's own self. There is only on fear; it manifests in many ways, and that is that 'Deep inside, I am not be.' And in a way it is true that you are not. Godliness is, you are not. the is not, the guest is. And because you are suspicious - and your suspicion is valid - you don't look in. You go on pretending that you are; you know that if you look in, you are not! This a deep, tacit understanding. It is not intellectual, it is existential; in your very guts, the feeling that 'I may not be. It is better not to look in. Go on looking out.' At least it keeps you fooled, it keeps the illusion intact that 'I am.' But because this feeling of 'I amness' is false it creates fear."

Osho, Fear: Understanding and Accepting The Insecurities of Life, p.4

Today, practice surrendering your ego. In Alcoholic Anonymous, the famous 12 step program, this surrender is the third step of the program, "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." With this surrender comes the decrease of fear and the experience of peace that surpasses all understanding.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pursuing a spiritual path involves purification, a giving up, a surrender to God's will instead of insisting on our own.

The seventh miracle principle in A Course In Miracles is: "Miracles are everyone's right, but purification is necessary first."

The purification mentioned in this principle refers to our mind not our body. The Course teaches that the body is an illusion, it merely is a conduit of our spirit. In itself it is nothing and to focus on it is to miss the point or distract us from where the effective focus should be our mind.

Our egos are so full of drama, resentments, grievances, attacks that to be miracle workers it needs purification. If we are to be more aware of Love's presence in our lives we must remove the obstacles and barriers to Love's presence. It is this removal of these barriers and obstacles to the awareness of Love's presence that the Course is referring to when it says that "purification is necessary first."

Miracles are not something only certain very holy people can do. They are everyone's birth right. In fact, for humanity to achieve its ultimate purpose all people must become miracle workers because a miracle, in the terms of the course, is simply right thinking and right awareness. We come to the place where we understand what is really important which is to love. Kenneth Wapnick in discussing this principle quotes St. Augustine who said "Love and do what you will." The ego distracts us from loving and so whatever blocks our loving awareness needs to be removed so that our awareness can be purified. In Unitarian Universalism our principles help us with this purification when we covenant "to affirm and promote the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth" and when we support the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. A free and responsible search should involve a purification of illusions and drama so that we get closer to our authentic and genuine selves which involves the awareness of the inherent worth and dignity of ourselves and every person.

Here is a moral tale of purification of a prosecutor who made terrible mistakes because of ego:

It is interesting that so much of our justice system is motivated by "winning" rather than the truth.

Today, do not get caught up in "winning" and having to be right. Perhaps practicing "not doing" as was suggested yesterday by the Tao Te Ching can help.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Not-doing brings us peace with whatever is.

It is written in the third chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

"Not praising the praiseworthy keeps people uncompetitive.

Not prizing rare treasures keeps people from stealing.

Not looking at the desirable keeps the mind quiet.

So the wise soul governing people would empty their minds, fill their bellies, weaken their wishes, strengthen their bones, keep people unknowing, unwanting, keep the ones who know from doing nothing.

When you do not-doing, nothing's out of order."

It is written in A Course In Miracles that there is a difference between perception and knowing. Perpection is always incomplete while knowing is the wholeness of eternity. ACIM reassures us that the separation of perception has not interrupted our deeper knowing which gives us partial glimpses of the eternal. These glimpses are created in the doing not-doing which allows us the experience of nothing being out of order.

This doing not-doing is what ACIM calls a "miracle" or a shift in our awareness from the ego world of perception to the peace of oneness with Life which is another word for God.

Today, be quiet. Give up desire and attachment. Let them go and be at peace with whatever is.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Be careful of the ego's dichotomous mind

Today, I am reading the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching which says that from the beautiful comes the ugly, from good things come bad, from easy comes difficult, from long comes short, from high comes low, and so we come to understand the dichotomous mind which loves the ying and yang of things.

We are left to wonder what the one thing would be without the other? Could we even understand the one thing without the opposite? And when we understand our dichotomous minds, we slowly begin to intuit the whole, how it might all work together.

Jesus says in A Course In Miracles that His task is not completed until He has lifted every voice with His in appreciation and gratitude for the Whole which is the peace of God given to us through the Spirit. T-13.VII.17:2-3

So today, I intend to set the drama aside, the divisiveness, the enmity, not in rejection and exclusion, but in love and appreciation for without these things I could not understand the peace, the inclusion, the compassion, the beauty and goodness of Life. Today, I will look beneath the veil, read between the lines, reflect on the deeper mysteries which permeate my consciousness, as  I focus my attention, with the help of the Holy Spirit of Life, on the unitive experience of the Tao which engenders great peace.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Looking through the glass, darkly

The Tao Te Ching reads, in Stephen Mitchell's translation, "The tao that can be told is not the eternal tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things."

And in A Course In Miracles it is written, "Christ is still there, although you know Him not. He lives within you in the quiet present, and waits for you to leave the past behind and enter in the world He holds out to you in love." T-13.VII.5:7-9

And so I wonder what is the mystery we call Life?

St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 13 verse 12," For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

I share with my clients in psychotherapy, "If you can't name it, you can't manage it." Being able to identify what the problem is that is afflicting you is 90% of being on the road to changing things in your life hopefully for the better. But at a spiritual level, the things that we name at the cognitive level are not real. They are simply our cognitive constructions and they, too, will pass away after they have distracted us from the deeper mystery of our existence and consciousness.

In living a spiritual life we should walk humbly, aware that our cognitive arrogance can lead us astray from our awareness of Love's presence.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What do you put your faith in?

James Fowler writes in his book, Stages of Faith, “...we are concerned with how to put our lives together and with what will make life worth living. Moreover, we look for something to love that loves us, something to value that gives us value, something to honor and respect that has the power to sustain our being.” P.5

This faith that Fowler writes of is the basis for our identity in our ego world. Being a Buffalo Bills fan in Western New York can be a form of faith manifested in clothing, flags, tailgate rituals on game day etc. People get caught up in all kinds of ego dramas that seems to give their lives meaning, importance, camaraderie, and seems to sustain their being in the ego world. And yet, these identifications, pursuits, and preoccupations keep us from the awareness of Love’s presence in our lives.

It is written in Lesson 50 in the workbook of ACIM:

I am sustained by the Love of God.

Here is the answer to every problem that will confront you, today and tomorrow and throughout time. In this world, you believe you are sustained by everything but God. Your faith is placed in the most trivial and insane symbols; pills, money, "protective" clothing, influence, prestige, being liked, knowing the "right" people, and an endless list of forms of nothingness that you endow with magical powers.
All these things are your replacements for the Love of God. All these things are cherished to ensure a body identification. They are songs of praise to the ego. Do not put your faith in the worthless. It will not sustain you.

As we consider these ideas it becomes apparent that we have become mislead by the ego into counterfeit sources of salvation. We have come to think that the ways of the world will save us, until they don’t, and we are rudely disappointed and bereft, and don’t know where to turn. Again, the Course helps us by telling us:

Put not your faith in illusions. They will fail you. Put all your faith in the Love of God within you; eternal, changeless and forever unfailing. This is the answer to whatever confronts you today. Through the Love of God within you, you can resolve all seeming difficulties without effort and in sure confidence. Tell yourself this often today. It is a declaration of release from the belief in idols. It is your acknowledgment of the truth about yourself.

Our Buffalo Bills fandom, all our trips to the mall, all our hours at work, even our family drama, and religious observance won’t and can’t save us in the end. The Course tells us that what will save us in the end is the “Love Of God within you.” Do you believe this? Do you have faith in this promise?

It is written in the introduction to A Course In Miracles:”The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.”

And my faith is that things will be all alright in the end. And if, right now, things are not alright, it is because we aren’t at the end yet. And that end is what the Course calls the Atonement which is when everybody loves everybody all the time. We have a way to go yet on our human journey towards the Atonement but we get glimpses of it here and there which is a little taste of what heaven is like.

In the 60s there was a phrase in common language on the streets, “Keep the faith!” And this week, I pass it along to you, encouraging you to “keep the faith.”

Monday, April 4, 2016

What is this concept called "faith?"

Happy April! This month our theme is ”faith,” which is a word like “truth,” “love,” and “beauty” which people project all kinds of meanings into.

Many people use the word “faith” as if it were synonymous with belief. On surveys, people are asked if they have a “faith” preference, or if they were raised in a “faith” tradition. This month we will not be using the word “faith” as if it were “belief.” We will be discussing something much deeper and more fundamental. The faith we will be talking about is something that is usually unconscious, yet motivates our whole being. The faith we are talking about is the faith that something in life will make me happy. Faith answers the question, “What is the good life, and how should I live it to be happy?”

The Dali Lama said that the purpose of life is happiness. All human beings want to be happy. The Dali Lama passes over the deeper question which is “What will make me happy?” It is that thing which you think will make you happy which is the “faith” that we will be talking about. That thing is what we invest our time, energy, heart and mind into because we think it will give us the happiness that we seek.

It says in lesson 91 in ACIM “ Faith goes to what you want, and you instruct your mind accordingly. Your will remains your teacher, and your will has all the strength to do what it desires.” So the basic question to be considered is “What do you want?”

Once we realize that the external world will not make us happy and we decide that we want to know the truth of life, we begin to realize as it says in Chapter 17, Section VI, paragraph 6, “The goal of truth requires faith. Faith is implicit in the acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s purpose, and this faith is all-inclusive. Where the goal of truth is set, there faith must be. The Holy Spirit sees the situation as a whole. The goal establishes the fact that everyone involved in it will play his part in accomplishment. This is inevitable. No one will fail in anything. This seems to ask for faith beyond you, and beyond what you can give.”

Faith, in ACIM, is in the Atonement principle. Atonement, of course, is At-One-Ment which I describe as “when everybody loves everybody all the time.” We human beings have a long way to go to achieve this last day, but I do have faith that that time is coming. I think the modern artistic rendition of this kind of faith is John Lennon’s song, Imagine, and the Beatles song, Love is All There Is.

In Alcoholic Anonymous they have a slogan, “You do your best, and God will do the rest.” To say this slogan with any degree of sincerity requires a willingness to surrender to your Higher Power and this surrender makes us vulnerable and takes much faith.

Jesus never condemned anyone for sinning, but He often would say, “Oh ye of little faith. If you only knew how much your Father in heaven loves you!” This belief in God’s love for us unconditionally takes great faith, because we often don’t love ourselves or one another and so don’t believe it is possible. When we overcome the barriers and obstacles to our awareness of Love’s presence in our lives our faith has been validated and brings us peace and joy.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Two choices in life: love and fear

A Course In Miracles teaches that in the last analysis the only thing a person can control is his/her decision making and there are only two choices: love or fear. Fear comes disguised in many forms and faces, but reduced to the most elemental factor under these forms and faces is fear.

And what is the most primitive form of fear? It is the death of our bodily form and the loss of our social identity and status.

The boss asked Steve what he thought he was doing when Steve made a big mistake at work. "I was only doing what you told me," said Steve.

"And you're so stupid that you listened to me?" said the boss. "You're fired!"

"You can't fire me, I quit!" said Steve.

"Don't you dare, quit on me," said the boss, "or then, I'll really fire you!"

"You really like my work, don't you, even with the occasional mistake," said Steve. "You couldn't get along without me."

"You know, Steve," said the boss, "deep down I really appreciate your work and I love you."

"Is this a kum-by-ah moment," asked Steve?

"Yes," said the boss. "It's more than a kum-by-ah moment, it's kind of like a miracle."

"For a moment, there, I was scared," said Steve, "but then things seemed to flip. How does that work?"

"Things are not what they seem," said the boss. "You have to read between the lines if you want to really understand. I made a mistake telling you to do the wrong thing, but then instead of my owning it, I blamed you. My ego got in the way. I realize how much I appreciate you. Can you forgive me for blaming you for my own stupidity?"

"Yes, but first you have to forgive yourself now that you've owned it," said Steve.

"Thank you, Steve," said the boss. "Take the rest of the day off with pay and enjoy yourself."

"Thank you," said Steve. "See you next time."

"I'll see you when I see you, "said the boss.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Theme for April is faith

The theme for April on Notes On The Spiritual Life is faith. Faith is one of those words like love, truth, and/or beauty which is hard to define in our English language. It means different things to different people. Faith is often considered synonomous with belief, but faith in the sense we will be exploring is not a set of beliefs, not a creed, but the basis for a way of life much of which is usually unconscious. Faith is the expectation of what will make us happy and often is mistakenly acted upon as a matter of ego rather than a matter of spirit.

Often the expectations of what will make us happy turn out to be counterfeit and do not bring us happiness in the long term even if they did in the short term. So what should we put our faith in? What will make us happy in an enduring way?

It is written in A Course In Miracles that "Perfect love casts out fear" and "If fear exists, there is not perfect love" and even further the Course insists "Only perfect love exists." and "If there is fear, it produces a state that does not exist." And then the Course goes on to say emphatically, "Believe this and you will be free. Only God can establish this solution, and this faith is His gift." T.1.VI.5:4-10

And so, the Course suggests that we place our faith in love which cannot be defined but which we can become aware of if we can overcome the barriers and obstacles to our awareness of its presence.

The Beatles wrote and sang a beautiful song, "Love is all there is." and yet those of us bogged down in the ego world of drama and crimes have little faith in it and as Jesus said repeatedly, "Oh ye of little faith. If you only knew how much your Father in heaven loves you!"

Monday, March 28, 2016

The message of the crucifixion is love.

As a child and adolescent growing up I was filled with fear and dread at the story of the crucifixion. I was taught that Jesus was killed and tortured for my sins and through His suffering and death, I was redeemed. This story of redemptive violence runs very deep in our culture and has done much damage and harm over the centuries. It is the basis for the belief in the hero's death in war and is daily manifested in the “hometown heroes” banners which hang on the lamp poles in our Village and Towns.

 In A Course In Miracle, a different story is told about the crucifixion. Jesus says in the sixth chapter, first section, twelfth paragraph, “The crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection, but the resurrection is the symbol of sharing because the reawakening of every Son of God is necessary to enable the Sonship to know its Wholeness. Only this is knowledge. The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are. If you use the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather that as a call for peace for which it was intended. The Apostles often misunderstood it, and for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it. Their own imperfect love made them vulnerable to projection, and out of their own fear they spoke of the “wrath of God” as His retaliation weapon. Nor could they speak of the crucifixion entirely without anger, because their sense of guilt had made them angry.”

 As a psychotherapist, I see many adolescents who cut. They say it makes them feel better. It releases tension and helps them feel alive rather than numb and dead inside. Damage to our bodies does not heal our souls. The soul needs other caretaking which ACIM teaches us is love.

It is anger and shame that contributes to attack, self loathing, and destruction. Jesus intended the crucifixion as an extreme example of the resurrection of the spirit in the face of bodily destruction.

The Apostles, He says, missed the lesson. Most of us still miss the lesson today especially when religious authorities teach attack and bodily suffering and death as redemptive.

 I have been blessed by ACIM. I finally get the lesson Jesus was trying to teach. Salvation comes from the love of forgiveness. It is simple, but counter cultural. Miracle workers are very much needed in our weary world. I look out on the world and say my loving kindness meditation mantra: “I wish you well. I wish you happiness. I wish you peace. I wish you love.” Happy Easter.