Thursday, October 12, 2017

Who are the teachers of God?

There are many aspects of spiritual development such as who are your spiritual teachers, what have been the ritual and rites of passage celebrations in your life, what media have nourished your spiritual
developments, have there been places of special significance in your journey, what have been critical experiences, etc. We will be taking these aspects one at a time and describing them. These aspects are experienced as very personal even as they have social and cultural and sometimes institutional support. So leave a description of your experiences in the comments.

The first aspect of spiritual development is to reflect on who are the teachers of God?

The answer, if we believe that we learn what we teach, that we all are teachers of God and every person we encounter has something to teach us. Sometimes it is patience, compassion, how to manage our fear and anger.

In a more formal sense, a teacher of God, is someone who is a little further down the path than we have come. Someone who can point the way, provide some direction, enhance our understanding, provide us with Love which is a micro experience of the Love of God.

We, ourselves, are teachers of God all the time whether we know it or not. We teach by example, and by manifesting our own state of being.

When I think of the most important teachers in my own life I would mention Father Edward Lintz who was our pastor at our Catholic Church in Brockport, NY and then Father James Callan and Rev. Mary Ramerman at Spiritus Christi in Rochester. I would then mention the most important gurus in my life as Osho, Matthew Fox, and A Course In Miracles. I also have been interested in Ram Dass and several teachers from Buddhist, and Sufi traditions. I also love Lao Tse. The most important teacher of all has been Jesus of Nazareth whom I have come to know through the New Testament and from A Course In Miracles.

At the age of 71 there have literally been thousands of teachers who I have learned from. If I were to recommend just one or two sources they would be the New Testament and A Course In Miracles. As it says in A Course In Miracles, there are many paths of spiritual development which will take you home. The question is not which is best but which works for you?

Before finishing this post, it must be said that the official representatives of religious organizations are not necessarily the best teachers of God because their loyalty is to their organization and tradition not to genuine spiritual development. As we say in the world of Mammon, "caveat emptor," let the buyer beware.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why the longing?

Why the longing?

Because we have separated ourselves from the godhead, the ground of our being and think we are authorities unto ourselves. This thought is what A Course In Miracles calls "a tiny mad idea."

There is no problem with atheism. The question when someone says they are an atheist is "what kind of god don't you believe in?" Most people don't believe in most gods and so all mature, spiritually developed human beings are atheists of a sort. Being an atheist, though, does not mean that we don't recognize a transcendent energy in the universe called Life. How can any person deny Life of which they are a part?

And so there is a deep longing, a deep hunger to undo our separation and  join with the whole. It says in A Course In Miracles, "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." T-27.VIII.6:2 In other words, we humans have taken our separation seriously when the idea of our being separate from the ground of our being is absurd. The idea that we could take our existence on our own authority seriously is indeed funny if you get the joke. Unfortunately, many humans do not get the joke.

One of bosses used to say, "We take work seriously, but never ourselves."

A good sense of humor is a significant sign of highly developed sense of humor.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Awareness of spiritual longing

"Spiritual longing is a sort of loneliness for an unknown yet deeply perceived presence. Some call the presence God; some call it peace; some call it consciousness; some call it love. Its source rests in the well of our hearts. When we slow down, quiet the mind, and allow ourselves to feel hungry for something we do not understand, we are dipping into the abundant well of spiritual longing."
-Elizabeth Lesser, The New American Spirituality, p. xiv

John Bradshaw called this longing the "hole in the soul." Clients go to psychotherapy complaining of depression and anxiety and they cannot identify the source of their anguish. In our materialistic society we have been conditioned to fill the hole in our souls with stuff, chemicals, compulsive behaviors, and special relationships. Some more mature souls recognize the anguish as a separation from the godhead, the ground of their being. This awareness sometimes is only a slight glimmer and comes sometimes only on the heals of tragedy.

Sometimes religion provides a path to greater spiritual awareness and sometimes it obstructs our awareness of Love's presence in our lives.

When have you felt that there is something bigger in life than what you had been aware of before? If you pursued it, how did you connect with it?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What does a grown up spiritual life look like?

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.” 

― Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

What are the major existential questions?


Question - How can I think about spirituality so I can enhance it in my life in a more deliberate way?

Answer - There are many models of religion but only one of spirituality. This one model of spirituality has been called the perennial philosophy. The perennial philosophy describes the elements of spirituality that is described in all major religions. Over the next several weeks we will be describing these elements.

In this article let's consider the major existential questions that all human beings become aware of and reflect on.

Why was I born?

What is the purpose of my life?

What happens when I die?

Who (What) will make be happy?

Who loves me or will love me?

Who (what) should I love?

When I make mistakes how should I correct them?

Life is a school room and as it teaches in A Course In Miralces we are given the above curriculum. We have no choice in the curriculum. Free will only allows us to choose when and how we take it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The symptoms for spiritual poverty - gun culture

It is absurdly funny that the politicians who take money from the NRA to promote the gun culture encourage people to pray for the victims in Las Vegas and other mass shootings while they do nothing to change the glorification and enthusiasm for guns.

Guns, being a tool of destruction, are recommended as an antidote to fear of attack by a hostile other who is portrayed as intent on bodily harm. This is the hell on earth that the NRA and our politicians have promoted and encouraged not for the betterment of humanity, but rather to increase the profits from the sale of weapons and ammunition.

These activities of promoting a gun culture are huge mistakes begging for correction and yet profit takes precedence over human well being. This is a symptom of extreme spiritual poverty in the United States of America which promotes a culture of fear and death rather than a culture of well being and happiness.

Change begins with each one of us altering our mindset from one of fear to one of love and helpfulness. Our spiritual well being does not depend on our bodily safety. This is a sophisticated idea because egos identify so strongly with their bodies they fail to realize they are so much more.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Will you share Love with yourself and your brothers and sisters?

"...you are not free to choose the curriculum, or even the form in which you learn it. You are free, however, to decide when you want to learn it. And as you accept it, it is already learned." A Course in Miracles, Manual For Teachers, 2.3:6-8

As a psychotherapist, and in examining my own life, I observe that people do the same damn things over and over again until they learn it's not working and try a different, hopefully, a better way.

Gurdjieff said the difference between winners and losers is not that they both don't suffer. Winners and losers suffer the same. The difference is that winners learn from their suffering and losers don't learn a damn thing. In other words we don't get to chose the curriculum of life only when we want to learn from it.

Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. How many people do you know who live examined lives? I am blessed to know some. I live one.

Carl told me that he was sitting at a stop light and noticed the other drivers sitting in cars around him. It dawned on him that they all had stories he knew nothing about. It seemed overwhelming to him for a moment and he asked me if I thought he was going crazy? On the contrary, I responded, it seemed like he was maturing. "You are breaking out of your narcissistic bubble and becoming empathic."

"You mean it's a good thing," he asked skeptically.

"Absolutely," I replied. "Your wondering and caring about your fellow human beings is an important step onto your spiritual path."

Carl seemed content and went on to talk about other things.

In A Course In Miracles this looking on our brother with love and seeing him as part of the whole of which we are also a part is what ACIM calls faith, It is written in ACIM, "To have faith is to heal. It is the sign that you have accepted the Atonement for yourself, and would therefore share it." T-19.I.9:1-2

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Should I put my own oxygen mask on first?

If you are spiritually mature, you understand that you are a teacher of God by your example, the life you have created, the values you act on, the opinions, interpretations, and meanings you make and share. Actions speak louder than words and actions come from our beliefs about what it is we think we want to have happen.

The pupils of the life course we teach have been assigned to us often by circumstances that we can't account for. They come into our lives because there is something they can learn from us and us from them.

A person asked Mother Teresa, "Jesus said that the way to the kingdom is to love as I have loved and I wonder whom should I love?" Mother Teresa replied, "Love whomever Life puts in your path."

Stephen Gaskin said one time that in the end all we have to offer another human being is our own state of existence. So what condition is your condition in? We need to be attentive to our own well being if we are to be of any help to anyone else. People should follow the airplane rule and put their own oxygen mask on first, then attend to the needs of others.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Who or what is your God?

At one level I think it is easy to understand that what we all are looking for is love. And yet we are confused about what love is. I was taught that there are at least 5 kinds of love: agape, charitable love; philia, brotherly love; platonic love; eros, romantic love; and storge, parental love. It seems that these distinctions, while meaningful, still hide the deeper understanding that these different kinds of love are just parts of a larger, grander, more abiding love which is the ground of our being, what some people have called the godhead. Some people, like Jesus, simply say that God is love.

A woman asked me in a pointed way one time whether I believed in God. I answered, "It depends on what God you are asking about?" She was a fundamentalist Christian whose God was very judgmental and consigning people to either heaven or hell. If this is the God she is talking about, her God, no I don't believe in it.

Some people say, "I don't believe in God," and I ask them, "What God is it that you don't believe in?"

Some people's gods are more mature than others. In considering the concept of spiritual development an indicator of the stage of spiritual development might be the kind of God the person does or doesn't believe in.

An indicator of a higher stage of spiritual development is the understanding that God is a verb not a noun. God might be thought of as "the force" which Luke Skywalker in Star Wars described.

"Becoming one with the all" gets mocked as New Age psychobabble and yet this desire of going home, joining the cosmic consciousness is a higher level stage of spiritual development.

If we considered the stages of spiritual development on a continuum from thinking of God like Santa Claus who rewards or punishes good and bad boys and girls to becoming one with the all as in each person being a drop in the ocean who is stressed by being separated from the source of its being until it can meld back into the whole from whence it came, where are you in your spiritual development?

Friday, September 29, 2017

What is it you are looking for?

It is written in A Course In Miracles in lesson 182, "This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of."

We all are on a mythic journey, a quest, to find the holy grail. And until we look within we never really find it. We make the mistake of looking out there when we should be looking within our own hearts.

Having married at 20 my wife and I moved 16 times in the first 11 years of our marriage. Half of these moves were for practical reasons and the other half I never understood, she just was restless and wanted to move because some sort of novelty attracted her. Then we stayed in one place for 12 years, and then moved 7 more times in the remaining 12 years before our divorce after 35 years of marriage. And did she ever find what she was looking for?


Thursday, September 28, 2017

We seek for innocence and nothing else

As a professional Social Worker I was taught to take the client where they're at. Further, one of the primary values of the profession is to approach and accept the client with a nonjudgmental attitude. Carl Rogers, the famous psychologist who pioneered client centered therapy, taught that one of the therapeutic ingredients in a therapeutic relationship is unconditional positive regard. In my professional life of 49 years I still work on this. It is much easier in my professional life than in my personal life because professional relationships are short lived and developed for a therapeutic purpose. In my personal life, relationships have a history and a future and I have a personal investment and stake. However, it is suggested in A Course In Miracles that I apply the same approach, attitude, and focus on my personal relationships that I do on my professional ones. I should approach all my relationships with a nonjudgmental attitude and unconditional positive regard.

Lesson 181 in A Course In Miracles reads "I trust my brothers, who are one with me." It reads further, "We seek for innocence and nothing else. We seek for it with no concern but now." " For the past is gone; the future but imagined."

It takes a spiritually mature person to rise above the drama of people's past lives (which we sometimes call baggage) and to set aside imagined future threats based on fears of hurt, and just be present in the moment focused on the divine spark which is within each person sometimes buried quite deep but there none the less.

Joe told me he couldn't get over his wife's affair, not only that she had engaged in it, but that she had kept it hidden from him for 10 years. Joe said that he just couldn't get over it, nothing would ever be the same again. She was not the person he thought she was. I pointed out that disillusionment is a powerful emotion and seems to make him angry not only at the fact that she had had the affair, and kept it secret (lied to him) all these years, but that he felt himself a fool for not knowing. I wondered with him if the most upsetting thing to him was his pride not what she had done.

We think we know and have a need to be right. To find out we are wrong is very difficult to recognize, admit, and incorporate into our sense of self without losing confidence, self esteem, and self worth. What is this pride that we feel we have lost for having been wrong and been a fool? It is a sense of shame which stems from feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness about who we are afraid we really are. Yet spiritually, we are children of God, loved and perfect in every way. Our fears stem from the drama on the ego plane not based on spiritual reality.

I suggested to Joe gently that he needed to get over himself and quit playing the victim. His wife's affair probably had nothing to do with him. Why is he taking this personally? Why is he making this all about himself? This occurred in the past and he seems afraid she could hurt him again in the future so he doesn't trust her even though this was a one night stand 10 years ago. Joe's feelings of disillusionment seem appropriate and I suggested he doesn't really know the person he is married to but he is now getting to know her better, for real,  and he must decide how he wants manage his emotions and thoughts about the relationship. I am reminded again of the ACIM lesson, "I trust my brothers, who are one with me." "We seek for innocence and nothing else. We seek for it with no concern but now." This is a very difficult lesson similar to Jesus' injunction to love our enemies.

At the end of the day, when we are dying, will all the mistakes we have made and others have made really make any difference? In the Christian prayer, the "Our Father," we pray, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us."

Amen. And so it goes............

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

If you would have a great and abiding peace you must learn to love your enemies as well as your friends.

One of the biggest challenges on our spiritual path and spiritual development is to love all of our brothers and sisters. Jesus tells us we must love not only our friends but also our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us, 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is a very hard teaching. Our human brains are not wired this way. Our amygdala's spark the fight or flight response when we perceive a threat. To override our amygdalas and engage our pre-frontal cortex takes intention, self discipline and effort. In A Course In Miracles the following advice is given: "When you feel the holiness of your relationship is threatened by anything, stop instantly and offer the Holy Spirit you willingness, in spite of fear, to let Him exchange this instant for the holy one that you would rather have. He will not fail in this." T-18.V.6:1-2 This prayerful, mindful approach can be miraculous in lowering one's anxiety and allowing us to lean into the relationship rather than attack.

Loving our enemies requires us to look for the divine spark in people we fear and focus on that. This willingness is a sign of spiritual maturity. When we see all our brothers and sisters as parts of our shared humanity deserving of respect, compassion, and love, we experience a great and abiding peace.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Humility a most important gift.

One of the most important qualities for spiritual development is humility. Humility comes from the recognition that our lives are unmanageable and that we have to turn them over to our Higher Power whatever we conceive our Higher Power to be. All we need for spiritual growth is willingness and to give up our willfulness. Willingness and willfulness sound alike, look alike, and yet are diametrically opposed. Willingness is to turn our life over to God and then get out of the way.

Some people don't feel worthy to allow God to come into their lives. Their sense of unworthiness makes them think that they have to purify themselves, atone for their sins, clear their desires and motivations, and yet this way of thinking denies God's power in their lives. We just need to turn our will over to God's will for us. That's all. If we try to do more, it is coming from our arrogance and desire to control.

Letting go requires trust and faith. Jesus complained all the time, "Oh you of little faith! If you only knew how much your father in heaven loves you."

When we are making choices with existential import, we can ask ourselves, "What would Love have me do?" and then allow things to take that direction.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The way out of this veil of tears is forgiveness

Carl was so full of shame for what he had done in his past that he thought he was unlovable. "What should I do?" he pleaded not so much to me but to life in general. He seemed inconsolable. My providing a shoulder to cry on seemed to make him feel better because he calmed down as he expressed his anguish. What does one do when one feels lost, when what has happened seems unrepairable, when the harm is so great nothing, it seems, can ever make things right again?

T.V. Smith gave a lecture back in  1955 at the Social Welfare Forum conference called, "Solve, resolve, absolve." He pointed out that some problems are solvable, some are resolvable, and some there is no solution for or any resolution for, only absolution. And how is absolution obtained? Confession and forgiveness. The balm for our souls is forgiveness and from whence does forgiveness come? Forgiveness
comes from a change in our minds, a change from the ego plane to the spiritual plane. Forgiveness comes from the recognition, acknowledgement, and awareness that the drama on the ego plane has no effect on the spiritual well being of God and God's creations. This insight, this joining with the Love of God, disregards the drama of the ego plane and rises above it.

Our anguish often brings us to the point of break through where we realize that our lives our unmanageable and we have to surrender to our Higher Power whatever we conceive our Higher Power to be. We move from darkness to light and we are filled with the hope that not only is salvation is possible but it is here right now and we can know it when we clear away the blocks and obstacles to our awareness of Love's presence which has never left us. We just got too caught up in our own ego drama to become aware of it. We realize we have been dreaming a really bad dream and we need to have awoken to a new reality which is God's love for us and our love for each other.

Carl, in his desperation, finally admitted that all the judgmentalism he had been taught about himself and other people was not true. He, with great sadness, said that the game he had been taught to play in his church where he was told he was a sinner and going to hell unless he did this or that or the other thing not only wasn't true but nothing that Jesus actually taught. Jesus, rather, told us that His Father in heaven loves us abundantly, that is unconditionally. Jesus, taught, in so many words, that there is no drama in heaven. Heaven is a place of love wherein, as Jesus said, "love as I have loved." And so Carl had a growing sense of peace. Maybe the things he had been taught and thought were not true. Carl said to me, "I think I am losing my faith." I said, "It sounds like you are and you are sensing everlasting life."

Here is what T.V. Smith said in his lecture about absolution:

"How, therefore, to absolve oneself from this excessive sense of guilt? I do not say from a mere sense of guilt, that is being too romantic; but how to contain this sense of guilt within its proper compass. We have on the one side the pathway worn by centuries of religious pilgrims who have undertaken through rites and creeds to load onto shoulders stronger than theirs burdens which they could no longer carry. We have in modern times the psychoanalytic couch. Neither of these is available to all men and women in our generation who must carry the weight of the world's causation upon their own shoulders. What are we to do? Is there a philosophy of life that when one has contained it will give him a curative sense of perspectives? I do not doubt but that there is. While this is not the occasion to present the remedial philosophy of life, let me call your attention to two attitudes, either one of which can enormously lighten the load of sensitive men and women whose chronic pablum is to feed upon the woes of other men and women. In the first place, this philosophy of life of which I speak would be characterized by a very robust sense of humor; and second, this philosophy of life would be characterized by what I may call "piety," in the old Roman sense of the term; identity with the world in which one lives, with the natural world and with the social world, in such fashion that one has perspective upon the world and does not feel himself to be alone. As a matter of fact, humor and piety are much closer together than most people think. Both of them are effective ways of getting perspective in terms of which we can recover our balance when the world or its tasks prove too much for us."

To summarize T.V. Smith's suggestions:
1. You can either laugh or cry
2. Keep the faith in God's unconditional love for God's creation.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What is your interior spiritual life like?

The question arises when people say they are spiritual but nor religious what is meant by this phrase, "spiritual but not religious?"

It seems to mean for most people that they recognize that there is a Higher Power and that they are not alone or even the most important creation in the universe. However, organized religions, churches, do not facilitate and expand this awareness in a way that the cost of membership provides resources for spiritual growth in sufficient benefits to be worth those costs.

A further question could be asked about whether this response is flippant or said in an intentional and sincere way. Assuming that it is a sincere statement, then the person saying they are spiritual and not religious might be asked to explain what (s)he means by this and how does he/she pursue his/her spiritual growth?

I, as a psychotherapist, sometimes ask my client's "What is your interior spiritual life like?" I have never had any client object to this question. The usual response is for the person to become pensive, quiet, and then attempt to formulate an articulate statement which is usually meaningful and somewhat difficult to put into words.

Luke was 17 and a senior in high school. Luke was very bright, came from a middle class family who were pillars of the community, who his parents said, "is going down the wrong road." Luke, college bound, was not abiding by his curfew, drinking and drugging, having promiscuous sex, and being disruptive in school. His parents brought him to see me when he was arrested for shop lifting.

Luke acknowledged his parents' concerns but stated they were over reacting and "boys will be boys." It was his senior year in high school and he was doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing which was "sowing my wild oats" and "having fun." Luke was willing to see me  in counseling to placate his parents and make a good impression on the legal authorities as he was dealing with his legal charges.

I had met with Luke three times and we had gotten to the bottom of his situation, and we had developed some rapport in our relationship, and at the end of our third meeting not knowing where to go next, I was prompted my an inner intuitive voice (which I call the Holy Spirit) to ask him, "Luke, what is your interior spiritual life like?" He looked at me solemnly for a change and paused. Instead of his usual glib and ironic response he said to me, "Interesting question. I'm not sure. I like nature." There was a palpable change in his demeanor and there was a deepening of the rapport I liked but didn't understand. I said to Luke, "Well that sounds good. Can we talk more about it next time?" He agreed and left as thoughtfully and at peace as I had ever experienced him.

When Luke returned for our fourth meeting he said to me, "I really liked your question. I have been thinking a lot about it." We talked further about his inner yearnings, meaning making, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I only saw him one more time. I have learned subsequently that Luke graduated from college, went to law school, and now is a practicing attorney living for the time being with his parents.

There is a deep spiritual yearning in our society which is not being addressed adequately by our mainstream religious institutions. They are failing while the interest in Buddhism, Yoga, humanism, mindfulness, and the Perennial Philosophy is on the rise. We all have an interior spiritual life if we pay attention to it. Perhaps the two most important questions we can ask ourselves, and people we care about, are "What is your interior spiritual life like?" and "How do you nurture it?"

Monday, September 18, 2017

Love would have us do the right thing.

Dear Heather:

In some ways the spiritual life is very simple. God is not fear, but love. The idea that God is love and not fear is very simple.

Of course, you can ask, "Well, what is love?" Great question, and the answer is that love is beyond definition and yet it is our natural inheritance and whether we recognize it or not is within us all all the time. The task of the spiritual life is to remove the obstacles and blocks to our awareness of Love's presence. The other important point is that Love is not out there in the ego world, but within where we bring our will into alignment with what we believe is God's will for us.

You can ask, Heather, whether you should take this job or that, hang out with these friends or those, get married to this partner or not, and you can reflect on any choices you have to make in your life. The answer is which choice will best help you become the person that you believe God has created you become, and to do with your life what it is that God is calling you to do with it? It short, will the choice help you do God's will or distract you from it?

If God is with you, Heather, who can be against you? Spiritually, your choices can create miracles.

The challenge is to discern God's will for you. (If you don't like the word "God" substitute "Universe" or "Life.")

You told me the decision you made at one point to marry Rob made you uneasy and filled you with anxiety. When I asked what you were afraid of you told me you cared deeply for him, but the drama in his life seemed more than you wanted to handle. A life long commitment to help him with the drama and to expect help from him with yours was just not loving for either one of you. You said it took more courage than you thought you had to break up the engagement because of the disappointment that Rob and your families and friends would feel. You told me that you realized that sometimes the truth hurts and that in order to live with integrity rather than the ego a person has to be brave. Long term goodness on the spiritual plane sometimes requires short term pain on the ego plane. Love overcomes fear.

The wisdom you have manifested leaves me with the impression that you are an "old soul." I am inspired and in awe of your choices to listen to the spirit moving in you and do the right thing.

Sincerely,

David

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Love does not require sacrifice

As human beings we are very confused believing that love requires sacrifice. This may be true of conditional love of the ego but it is not true of the unconditional love of God.

What is not love is fear and the ego relishes fear. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "You believe it is possible to be host to the ego or hostage to God.”

More specifically it is written, “Your confusion of sacrifice and love is so profound that you cannot conceive of love without sacrifice. And it is this you must look upon; sacrifice is attack, not love. If you would accept but this one idea, your fear of love would vanish.” T-15.X.5:8-10

And so we fear the Love of God because we believe that God’s love demands the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of our ego whether through enlightenment or death.As human beings we are very confused believing that love requires sacrifice. This may be true of conditional love of the ego but it is not true of the unconditional love of God.

What is not love is fear and the ego relishes fear. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "You believe it is possible to be host to the ego or hostage to God.”

More specifically it is written, “Your confusion of sacrifice and love is so profound that you cannot conceive of love without sacrifice. And it is this you must look upon; sacrifice is attack, not love. If you would accept but this one idea, your fear of love would vanish.” T-15.X.5:8-10

And so we fear the Love of God because we believe that God’s love demands the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of our ego whether through enlightenment or death. Our willfulness, our belief that we can be the author of our own existence, keeps us from peace and joy.

Heather's mother, Joanne, told Heather repeatedly in so many words, "I'll love you if you get good grades, do your chores, keep your room clean, and stop fighting with your brother." Heather craved her mother's love and so felt guilty when she didn't please her mother. It seemed her mother always wanted something and whatever Heather did was not good enough.

Heather's older brother, Michael, told her, "Mom is a bottomless pit. Nothing you do will ever be good enough for her. Mom reminds me of the joke about the little girl who asked her mother why it was raining and the mother said, 'Because God is crying.' and when the little girl asked her mother why God was crying, the mother said, 'Probably because of something you did.'"

Heather didn't laugh much. She said, "Is God like mom?"

Michael said, "That's what they say. That's why I don't believe in God. What kind of God would want His son to suffer and die on a cross to appease His disappointment with His creations' mistakes? Why did He create them that way to begin with? The whole story seems screwed up to me."

"I don't believe in a God like mom," said Heather. "That would be a hell."

Michael said, "My God loves us unconditionally just the way we are. We having nothing to fear from my God."

Heather said, "I like your God. Can I believe in Him too?"

Michael said, "Yes, of course. It's up to you."

"Is there a church that believes in your God," asked Heather.

"No," said Michael, "but you can read about Him in a book called A Course In Miracles when you get older."

"I love you, Michael," said Heather.

"I love you too, Heather," said Michael, "no matter what."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

We are not our bodies.


People are not bodies. They are so much more. When we are preoccupied with the body we miss the divine spark within each of us. This is the teaching of A Course In Miracles.

And yet, we live in a society very preoccupied with the body. Advertisements bombard us with how to make the body look better, smell better, move better, operate in a healthier way. In this preoccupation with the physical, we overlook the spiritual, the divine spark which is hidden in each of us.

It is written in A Course In Miracles, "Limit your sight of a brother to his body, which you will do as long as you would not release him from it, and you have denied his gift to you." T-15.IX.4:4

John told me that he and his wife Judy rarely had sex anymore because Judy had gained weight after the last child, over 50 lbs. and Judy now weighed over 200 lbs. at 5'6".

"She's a good mom and a good wife, but I find her disgusting to look at and just can't get it up. I've told her she needs to lose weight and all she says to me is, 'I know. I'm trying.' But then no change. This has been going on for 2 years now. We were coasting until she found me looking at pornography and now she says she wants a divorce. Maybe it's for the best, but I don't really want to lose my family."

My heart went out to John but it seemed to me that he has a spiritual problem not a psychological problem. I wondered how I could help him. It seemed that John's values were out of wack. He is more influenced by his physical responses than by his spiritual understandings. I asked, "Do you like Judy as a person? Do you have fun with her doing things? Without friendship, there will be a terrible loneliness in your marriage."

John looked pensive and said, "I might have taken our marriage for granted and we were just going through the motions. Are you saying that I should focus more on enjoying doing things with her and overlooking her physical appearance?"

I replied, "How does that strike you?"

John said, "Like the right thing to do. If I did that I might be happier."

"Focus on the divine spark in Judy and let the rest go and see what happens," I suggested.

John said we would call if he wanted to talk again. When I heard from John a year later he told me that he and Judy were still together, happier than ever, and her weight no longer mattered to him. The funniest thing he said was that now that her weight no longer mattered to him she had lost 30 lbs.

And what is the moral of the story? Leave a comment, will you?

Monday, August 7, 2017

From whence comes joy and peace?

The Dali Lama when asked what the purpose of life is replied "happiness." Good answer but it begs the deeper question, "What will make me happy?"

A Course In Miracles gives the answer over and over again in its text. In section VIII of of chapter 15 in paragraph 2 it is written: "Hear Him gladly, and learn of Him that you have need of no special relationships at all. You seek in them what you have thrown away. And through them you will never learn the value of what you have cast aside, but still desire it with all you heart."

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37  "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

What we crave, deep down, is the oneness with God's creation of which we are a part. As is taught in 12 step problems in step one, we recognize and acknowledge that our lives are unmanageable, in step two that there is a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity, and in step three we make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to our Higher Power as we understand it.


In the Christian prayer, the Our Father, we pray, "...Thy will we done on earth as it is in heaven." What do we understand God's will for us to be? This understanding is the benefit of discernment. We live our lives in open hearted ways forgiving our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses against us. This is the path path to a happiness better named joy and peace.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Our dramas of suffering and sacrifice create our own hell

Andrea was insecure and this is what Greg loved about her. Greg believed that Andrea would love him because he could take care of her and make her feel safe. As Andrea felt more secure and confident, Greg became increasingly anxious and depressed. Greg went to see his doctor who told him he was suffering from depression and gave him antidepressant medication. The medication helped a little bit, but Greg still felt "off" as Andrea seemed to be doing well and didn't need him anymore.

Greg's doctor told him his neurotransmitters were not working properly and were flooded with Serotonin. Whatever the cause, Greg was not feeling much better and decided to see a psychotherapist. The therapist asked Greg after a few meetings if Greg thought that maybe he was suffering from a spiritual problem? Greg responded that he had no idea what the therapist was asking him. What kind of a spiritual problem could it be?

The therapist offered the idea that Greg was dealing with a sense of shame, a sense of innate defectiveness and inadequacy which he tried to overcome by taking care of, what Greg called "love", people so that they would love him back.

Greg acknowledged that this unconscious dynamic may be at play. The therapist then asked Greg where he thought this sense of inadequacy and defectiveness had come from? Greg said he had felt this way since he was a child and his mom and dad divorced when he was three and he missed his father and his mother started drinking and leaving him with a sitter to go out with other men. Greg said that he always wished his mom and dad loved him more and were there for him. He found that by being very good and trying to be helpful seemed to make his mom and dad like him better. Greg said that maybe his whole life was based on a belief that if he was nice to people they would like him so he has striven his whole life to be what his best friend called "being a people pleaser."

The therapist suggested that his whole life has been based on this belief that he is inadequate and defective in some way and that he would be all alone unless he was able to take care of and please other people. The therapist asked if this was the basis of his "love" for Andrea? Now that she was more secure and confident rather than being happy for her, Greg was getting fearful and depressed believing that Andrea wouldn't need him any more and leave him?

Greg started to cry and said, "I'm really messed up, aren't I?"

The therapist said, "Not at all. You are perfect just the way you are, you're just learning that Life wants you to be happy and have a high quality life just because you are alive and part of this wonderful universe."

Greg smiled and said, "Thank you."

The spiritual problem is one of shame which is the innate belief and feeling that we are inadequate and defective in some way. Further we think that it is only a matter or time and circumstances before this supposed fact comes to light and we are found out to be the shameful creatures which we believe we are. As Christians tell us we all our sinners if not for what we have done, at least because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden for which Jesus died on the cross to assuage the anger of the Father God who is mad about our disobedience.

This belief in our sinful natures which requires sacrifice and suffering for exoneration and redemption is the Great Lie of the ego. The spiritual fact is that God loves us unconditionally and it is we, humans, who create our own guilt and hell because we have separated ourselves from the unconditional love of God by our willfulness and drama.

If we could overcome and rise above our own drama, we could create heaven on earth. Greg has created his own hell believing that he is unworthy and can only be whole if he sacrifices and suffers, what he calls "love.". Nothing could be further from the Truth and it is Greg's false spiritual belief which has placed him in his own hell. Heaven, however, is within his grasp once he realizes that he is okay and will be okay just the way he is. He is loved by his Creator.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Special relationships" is the mistaken belief that someone else can make you happy.

Do you think that loving another and being loved by another will make you happy? If so, you are sadly mistaken. The "give to get" dynamic underneath most relationships is the path to anger, resentment and shame. No other person can make you happy. If you believe this and act on this, you give your power away.

Ashley believed that she really loved Joshua and Joshua believed that he really loved Ashley but then Josh became concerned that Ashley might also like, if not love, Bradley. Josh asked Ashley about this, more like he accused her, and she denied it and the more Josh pressured with 20 questions the more angry and resentful Ashley got and started to believe that maybe Josh really didn't love her, he was only possessive and jealous. 

Ashley finally broke up with Josh because she couldn't deal with his jealousy, possessiveness, and accusations which made her doubt herself and her lovability. Ashley's therapist said that Josh seemed insecure and Ashley certainly agreed but it did not make her feel more secure and loving in the relationship with Josh. Both Ashley and Josh broke up bitter, demoralized, and depressed each blaming the other for the failure of their relationship.

What went wrong? The mistake was the romantic belief that the job of the other was to make him/her happy. When the other person seemed to fail in that expectation, there was no further purpose of the relationship other than to learn an important life lesson: that no other person can make you happy. He/she can't make him/herself happy. How could (s)he possibly take on the responsibility to make another person happy?

Jesus tells us that we should love God first in Matthew 22:37-38

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Could it be that Josh was jealous that Ashley loved God first rather than him and he, unconsciously, became enraged. Could it be that Ashley was not willing to alter her priorities in life and put Josh first?

"Special relationships" are the path to hell unless we turn them over to our Higher Power. The disciples ask Jesus about people who have two or more spouses on earth which will be your partner in heaven and Jesus answers in Matthew 22:30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

And so we are back, once again, to the distinction between conditional and unconditional love. As we grow and develop and mature we are called increasingly to unconditional love which is how our Higher Power, the Spirit of Life loves us.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

What kind of life do you want?

Do you think that our fear of scarcity leads to most human problems? The dynamic created is the win/lose dichotomy. If I win that means you must lose and vice versa. This is the basis for all competition and war. This is the opposite of peace. If we are to ever achieve peace we must operate on an abundance/completion dynamic. Sharing and generosity is the path to peace and joy.

God is a sharer who desires and creates for completion. This is the basis of the spiritual life. Scarcity, competition, and war is the basis of a egotistical life. Which would you have?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fears and conditional love

Why am I so unhappy in my love life? My wife and I have been married 14 years and we have two kids. I don't think I love her any more but if I leave her she will be devastated and I'm worried about how all this would affect the kids. I have grown increasingly depressed. I find myself drinking more and looking at other women in a lustful way which I know is wrong. What should I do?

This is a very common situation and we live in a society which tends to psychologize these situations instead of seeing them as opportunities for spiritual growth.

Most people don't know what love is. They describe it as a feeling of euphoria which often is transient because the infatuation, the honeymoon, can't last forever. The failure to understand love at a deeper level leaves them confused and depressed.

As has been described earlier, at a broad level, there is two kinds of love:conditional and unconditional. On the ego plane, we believe in conditional love, "I'll love you if...." People think they need to earn love, or merit it. This kind of conditional love is not really love because what we deeply crave is unconditional love which is , "The worst about me is known and I am loved any way."

Our society believes in a God who loves His creatures conditionally. The bible is full of such stories of a judgmental God who exercises His wrath at sinful humans and yet Jesus, in the New Testament, presents us with a different God like the story of the prodigal son and the adulterous woman who loves us unconditionally.

Two definitions of love that are best are : to know the worst about someone and love them anyway. It's rare but sometimes we run across it most often between a parent and a child. The second definition is to care as much about a partner's growth and development as you do about your own, and to expend the effort to nurture, encourage, facilitate that growth and development.

Most problems in our human relationships are based on fear. We are terrified of being hurt, disappointed, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, attacked and so we think and behave in ways to defend ourselves and attack what we believe are the signs of that of which we are afraid. If we are aware enough, we recognize that the very things we think we see in the other that engender our fears is present in ourselves. This self recrimination and self loathing then gets projected onto the other with a vengeance.

It is not only important, but essential, for a person to be loving for the person to know that he/she is loved unconditionally by his/her maker, the universe, life. As Jesus tells us repeatedly, God not only loves us but loves us abundantly. When we know this, we can share that love generously with others. If we don't know that, then, yes, we can feel out of love because we have put ourselves there.

If we feel "out of love" it is important to find ways to take better care of ourselves so that we can feel more satisfied and fulfilled in our lives. With that satisfaction and fulfillment comes a generosity that engenders the ability to create unconditional love in our relationships.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Two types of love: conditional and unconditional. Which do you aspire to?

I thought my wife would make me happy, but after five years, I find myself seeking other women. I have been taught in my religious upbringing that this is wrong, but I can't help myself. My psychotherapist tells me this normal, all men do this, it is not unusual to become bored or disenchanted with a relationship when the honeymoon, inevitably, comes to an end. So what can I do? My wife is a good person and I don't want to hurt her, but I don't think I love her anymore.

It is written in A Course In Miracles, "To believe that special relationships, with special love, can offer you salvation is the belief that separation is salvation." T-15.V.3:3 It is not the job or purpose of a relationship with another person that that person make you happy. That person is having a hard enough time making herself happy, let alone taking on the burden of making you happy. Each person must ultimately take the responsibility for his/her own happiness not put the responsibility for that on somebody else. This idea that someone else will make you happy, is suppose to make you happy, is the path to hell.

The spiritual answer to the dilemma is that we are suppose to love everybody unconditionally.  The definition of the At-one-ment is when everybody loves everybody all the time. That is heaven. Anything less is hell. Unfortunately, most of us operate on the level of conditional love. I'll love you if.......

It is a challenging thing to love someone unconditionally and yet it happens, it can happen, when we ask the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Live, our Higher Power for help. In that holy instant when unconditional love occurs we have created heaven on earth and experience bliss.

Focus on your own growth and happiness and forget this idea that someone else will make everything okay for you. This is looking for love in all the wrong places and true love is not to be found in special relationships. Special relationships are part of the curriculum of life to help us learn about love, what it really is, and your disenchantment with the relationship with your wife is a golden opportunity for you to look inward and rise above your own desires for ego gratifications. The spiritual rewards of this path will far outweigh the temporary high of a new infatuation.


 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Projection of shame creates hell on earth


What is the basis of my fears that I am defective and inadequate in some way and it is only a matter of time before  people figure this out about me? At our roots we, unconsciously, experience shame, not of who are are, but of who we think we have become.

We have separated ourselves from the source of our being as we have developed our egos. We have separated ourselves to insure our physical survival and as we have developed we have realized that we not a body containing a soul, but a soul with a body which sometimes is not worth protecting and saving. The identification with the body is a road to hell. Not that our bodies are not important because they are the vehicles through which our soul awareness is realized, but undue attachment causes anxiety. As Bruce Cockburn sings in his great song, Last Night Of The World, "I learned not to trust in my body"

When bodies herd together to protect themselves from groups of other bodies we create hell on earth because at at spiritual level we are all one and to appeal to the herd for salvation is insanity.

Barry told me he believed in white supremacy and the problem in America is the "niggers". President Trump has told Americans that their problems are due to Mexicans and Muslims and if elected he will build a wall to keep Mexicans out and he will create bans and extreme vetting to keep Muslims out which will make America great again and keep Americans safe. Americans, out of their fears of "the other" elected him their leader.

Trump's  proposals promise to protect people's bodies while they destroy people's souls. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "For separation is the source of guilt, and to appeal to it for salvation is to believe you are alone. To be alone is to be guilty. For to experience yourself as alone is to deny the Oneness of the Father and His Son, and thus to attack reality." T-15.V.2:5-7

The At-one-ment is the cosmic consciousness that we are all in this thing called Life together. To project our shame on each other is the basis of sin and the cause of hell on earth.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tao that can be spoken is not the true and eternal Tao.

Over the next several months, there will be articles on the Tao Te Ching among others. The book below is very good. When you buy books using the embedded Amazon widgets, a small commission, at no cost to the buyer, is paid to support this blog. Thank you for your support.



Tao that can be spoken is not the true and eternal Tao.
Names that can be named are not the true and eternal names.
Nonbeing is the origin of Heaven and Earth.
Being is the mother of ten thousand things.

My paraphrase of this part of the first section of the Tao Te Ching.

God is too big for any one religion and if you think you know who God is you are full of baloney.
You do not know what anything really means because these things you have made up.
The Force of the Universe we humans call Life which is the beginning of our awareness of heaven and earth.
Our dichotomous minds just make stuff up that we naively think is real.

Let your magnificence shine forth


Monday, July 3, 2017

Without the ego would there be chaos or love?

It is written in A Course In Miracles that we hold on to the past to be able to judge for "judgement becomes impossible without the past, for without it you do not understand anything." T-15.V.1:1

A little further it is written: "You are afraid of this because you believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love." T-15.V.1:6-7

Does this mean I should forget the past?

Not exactly for as human beings that would be impossible and we would not learn anything and grow. What is suggested is that we forgive the past, we rise above it, and we do not let the past imprison us in the present.

As a psychotherapist sometimes I am asked, "Do you really believe people can change?"

I answer, "I would be a hypocrite and a fraud if I didn't believe people could change. Of course they can. I have been honored and privileged to witness miraculous change."

Anna and Mike came to see me after Mike had an affair. Anna, then our of revenge, went and had an affair too. They both decided to get back together. Mike told me, "We are so much better now."

Anna chimed in and said, "We went out for coffee and forgave each other and decided to start over again. It was wonderful."

They both are in their late 40s and had met in high school at age 15. They have been together 27 years.

"Start over?" I asked.

"Yes," Anna said. "We agreed to pretend that we just met."

Without history there is no judgment and with no judgement, there is a space for love to exist.

I love the bumper sticker "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." The best judgement is forgiveness which makes a place for love.

10 things to enhance your spiritual life


Sunday, July 2, 2017

What's your interior spiritual life like?


Secrets imprison our spirit and block the flow of energy in our relationships

Robert said, "I am tired of the secrets. I have kept them my whole life. I am scared of what will happen if they find out. I'd rather die than deal with the consequences. What should I do?"

Secret keeping blocks our communication with existence. Our spirit is made to hide in the corners and under the rocks. Our secrets diminish us and who we really are. Secret keeping is a sign of disrespect for others and most of all for our real self.

A sign of spiritual development is the release of secrets and a growing transparency. We become purer with nothing to hide.

I said to Robert. "You can tell me. I will keep your confidence and when you tell me your secrets we can talk about what, if anything, can be done."

Robert told me his secret and we both laughed about how silly it was. His secret was a lie he had told his grandfather and his uncle 40 years ago. His grandfather was now dead, but his uncle was still alive. I encouraged Robert to tell his uncle his secret just as an experiment to see what his uncle's reaction would be. Two weeks later, Robert and I met again and Robert was a new man. He was relaxed and happy with a grin on his face. Robert told me that when he told his uncle his secret of the lie he had told 40 years ago, his uncle laughed and said he had known all along that Robert had told a lie and his grandfather did as well. Robert said that his uncle hadn't wanted to confront him with his lie because his uncle wanted him to come to the realization that telling the truth would not change the love that grandfather and he felt for him, but this disclosure could happen when Robert became brave enough to overcome his fears of shame.

Robert laughed at his own folly of keeping his secret from those he loved for over 40 years for nothing but a life lesson about spiritual growth of monumental significance. Keeping secrets is a prison for our spirit of our own making. Purification and bringing darkness to light is what "enlightenment" is all about.