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.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Salvation is "to make wide" and to rise above

I have been reading Kathleen Norris’s book, Amazing Grace, and she points out that in Hebrew, the word “salvation” means “to make wide” or “to make sufficient.” I think in English, the word “salvation” has come to mean saved from damnation. At least, this seems to be the connotation which religious usage has come to imply as in Jesus died on the cross to provide us with salvation from our sins. In other words, God offered His Son, Jesus, as a blood sacrifice to appease God’s own anger at His sinful creatures. Walter Wink has called this idea “the myth of redemptive violence,” and unfortunately, it is alive and well in our contemporary culture and its portrayal in movies such as the Revenant wins academy awards.

In A Course In Miracles, in Chapter 6, Jesus explains at length the real lesson in the story of the crucifixion which is that His spirit could not be killed. Jesus says, “There is little doubt that one body can assault another, and can even destroy it.” T-6.1.4:2 He then goes on to say that a person can decide to forgive and rise above the assault. Jesus says, “I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter. As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many.” T-6.I.9:1-3 Salvation occurs in miracle thinking, the shift from the plane of ego drama, to the spiritual level of Love’s presence. It is this shift in Jesus that we call the resurrection and which we still celebrate 2,000 years later at Easter time.

This shift in awareness which involves forgiveness is a rising above the narrow confines of ego drama and breaking through to the wide open spaces of heaven and flow. Salvation is a liberation of spirit, and healing of the fragmented and broken. Salvation is the movement to a better track, a getting out of things when we are in over our heads, a turning in a new direction of better balance.

John had lost everything: his wife, his children, his job, his income, his home, his social status, his former identity as a productive, successful, middle class husband, father, citizen. John had hit bottom. John asked his friend, Doug, a desperate question, “I have lost everything, Doug. I am 57 and have nothing to show for my life. What is the measure of a man?” And Doug said, “Kindness.” And with that word, which struck John so hard it took his breath away, John felt reborn.He felt that Doug’s statement that the measure of a man was kindness had saved him. From that point on, John moved forward with confidence and love in his heart to rebuild his life. The road of John’s life widened and with nothing but kindness, John had what was sufficient to go forward.

The theme for April will be faith. If you have ideas or materials to share around this theme let me know.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Salvation is your life moving in accord with the Tao?

Last night I was reading Bhagwan Shree Jajneesh (Osho) about Tao and he says "In fact, people have been thinking for millennia that sins are punished, but I say to you that sins are not punished. Sins are the punishment." 

"Sins carry their punishment themselves." 

"Here you sin and here immediately the punishment starts - you feel ugly and you feel sad and you feel guilty, and a turmoil and a chaos arise inside and you are unhappy and in hell. Hell is not somewhere in the future, nor is heaven. Each act carries its own heaven and hell."

And then Bhagwan says, "Remain balanced and you are in heaven; become unbalanced and hell is created - nobody else is creating it for you."

"Lao Tzu has no God, no personal God, to punish anybody. It is simply Tao. Tao is just a law, a universal law. If you move according to it you are happy, if you move against it you become unhappy. In fact, unhappiness is symptom, just as happiness is a symptom - symptom of how you are moving: according to Tao or against Tao.'

As so, this month of March, 2016, as we consider the theme of salvation, it is interesting that Bhagwan teaches that salvation comes from staying in balance, in sync with the Tao. Are you moving according to Tao or against it? This discernment requires great alertness and awareness. Is your life on the right track or have you drifted or gone astray?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Will you find your way home to God? That is the promise of salvation

During this Lenten season as we approach Palm Sunday next week, in the Christian tradition, salvation is the high light of the season, as Jesus, prepares to show us, very dramatically, that torture and execution can't stop love. He showed us how to rise above drama on the ego plane and that salvation comes from making a different choice: love and truth, instead of fear and death.

This month, March, 2016, we continue to consider and reflect on the topic of salvation. This consideration begins with the question, “Do we need salvation,” and if so,  “what does that salvation consist of,” and “how does one gain it?”

It is written in the workbook in Lesson 231, “Salvation is a promise, made by God, that you will find your way to Him at last.” It says a little farther, and it makes me smile, “Salvation is undoing in the sense that it does nothing, failing to support the world of dreams and malice.” And so, it would seem, that we do need salvation in the sense of becoming right minded. We need to clear away the blocks and obstacles to our awareness of Love’s presence in our lives.

It says in Chapter 12, Section VI, paragraph 5, verse 1, “When you have seen the real world, as you will surely do, you will remember Us. Yet you must learn the cost of sleeping, and refuse to pay it.”

And so, salvation is a change of heart and mind. Jesus is clear about this when He tells his disciples that the way to the kingdom is to “Love as I have loved.” For Unitarian Universalists salvation is encouraged in the covenant to promote and affirm the seven principles, the most important of which perhaps is the first, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Salvation in my life has come in the experience of kindness as a recipient of other people’s kindnesses and as a giver of kindness to others. When I have been kind to others, it was a double blessing for my intended recipient as well as for myself and the others influenced by the ripple effect.

Salvation comes from being a blessing to yourself and to others. Do one kind thing every day  even if it is an act of random kindness and “ will remember Us, and wake up from your sleep of narcissism.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Do we even need salvation? If so, what is the "what" and "how" of salvation?

The theme for March, 2016 is salvation

Having been raised Roman Catholic I was taught that Jesus died for my sins on the cross. This meant that I could go to heaven because Jesus’ sacrifice had appeased an angry God who would send me to hell otherwise. If this wasn’t bad enough, Adam and Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden and God was angry and cast them out of the garden and this was the original sin. Even if I didn’t commit any sins of my own, I inherited the sin of Adam and Eve. In other words, I was taught that people are doomed the day they are born and it is only by baptism and accepting Jesus as their Lord and savior can they be saved from hell and go to heaven. This myth of salvation has been taught by the Christian church to inject fear into people so they will obey and accept the salvation which the church, as the intermediary between an angry father God and us, poor sinners, has to offer through its sacraments, and ministry.

Which leads us to the question asked in A Course Of Miracles about the what and how of salvation. The statement is made “Any response other than love arises from confusion about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of salvation, and this (love) is the only answer.” T-12.III.5:3

However, this statement about the “what” and “how” of salvation begs a more fundamental question which is, do we even need salvation?

It is written in ACIM - “You will undertake a journey because you are not at home in this world. And you will search for your home whether you realize where it is or not.” T-12.IV.5:1-2 I have found myself muttering my own mantra since I was a young boy, maybe about 10, “It is not a bad life if you know how to live it.” I don’t know where this mantra came from. It seemed to be born out of my fears and unhappiness with my life and a recognition that I could not rely on my parents to make me happy or even provide what I considered some the necessities of life like clothing and food let alone a sense of meaning and purpose. I realized as a child that I would have to figure out the meaning of my life and make my own way in the world if I was to be okay. In other words, I realized that I would have to save myself because I couldn’t expect others to do it for me.

And yet having a philosophical nature and religious interest I also realized that the “good life” I was seeking to create for myself was not going to accrue simply from the outside world and through my own efforts. I sensed that there was something more going on.  It is written in ACIM ““Everything you perceive as the outside world is merely your attempt to maintain your ego identification, for everyone believes that identification is salvation.” T-12.III.7:5 I knew that my ego identification was not the answer when I was 10 and I still struggle with my ego identification 60 years later at 70.

It says in the introduction to ACIM that the answer is Love and yet Love cannot be described or defined. The best that ACIM can do is help us to eliminate the barriers and obstacles to Love’s presence, and this is what Father Matthew Fox has called the Original blessing. Adam and Eve’s sin was to separate themselves from God by breaking what they thought was one of God’s rules. And because they felt guilty they imaged God punished them by separating Himself from them by sending them away, but it is clear from ACIM that God never did this. It was Adam and Eve who put themselves out of the garden, and they “forgot” about God by getting caught up in all kinds of self imposed ego drama. God has been there all along - we have just chosen our ego identification over Him.

Salvation, it would seem, is surrendering our ego identification so we can more fully enter into the Atonement. This is achieved, according to the Course, by forgiveness which is a rising above the ego plane. Jesus laughs at His executioners’ actions and says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And indeed they didn’t  and we still are remarking on this tremendous cosmic consciousness of Jesus to this day.

I aspire to the same cosmic consciousness that Jesus had so that I can forgive myself, and all others, and this crazy world we have created. From the point of view of the course, Atonement is salvation which we achieve through surrender and forgiveness. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Let Go and Let God.” Can we become quiet and relax into the awareness of Love’s presence?

This week ask the Holy Spirit to help you let go, forgive, rise above the nonsense, and move into the At - One - Ment which brings great peace, joy, and knowledge of being Loved.