Thursday, June 29, 2017

When time stands still

What does it mean when we say, "Time stood still?" or "Where did the time go? I lost track of time?" We become aware at such times that for an instant there was no past and there is no future. As the Buddhists say, "Be here now."

When time stands still we experience a taste of eternity. We experience nothing other than pure awareness of being. This experience is the epitome of a spiritual state of bliss.

In psychology, there is the concept of "flow". Flow is complete absorption in the activity one is engaged in to the extent that there is a loss of awareness of space and time.

If there is heaven, this experience of flow is the closest we might come to experiencing heaven on earth where there is no time, no past, no future, only the eternal now.

Jennifer told me that there were moments when she forgot her past, didn't worry about her future, just experienced peace. I asked her when these moments occurred. She said that these moments occurred sometimes when she was listening to music, hiking along a wooded trail, and caught up in the exhilaration of  a run. I knew what she was talking about because I have the same experiences when I am writing, riding my motorcycle, and engaging in psychotherapy sessions with my clients.

In A Course In Miracles, these experiences of time standing still are called Holy Instants. Becoming aware of Holy Instants and allowing them to occur is a sign of spiritual development. May you have many of them and enjoy the peace they bring.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Peace that is beyond understanding

So many of my clients come to therapy complaining of anxiety. Their physicians have prescribed various medications and they don't seem to bring the relief desired. And so the question psychotherapists get asked is "can you help me?"

The common response to this question is to recommend a course of CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or some other form of psychotherapy which are myriad. At a spiritual level these psychological approaches miss the point and may actually do more harm than good. Adding more knowledge and techniques for managing symptoms of anxiety can be somewhat ameliorating but don't really get to the root of the problem. At a spiritual level, the client needs less knowledge not more. The client needs to rise above their worries not find better ways of managing them which paradoxically makes their worries even more prominent as a focus of attention.

The spiritual strategy for dealing with anxiety is to "turn it over to their Higher Power". As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, "Let go and let God." AA teaches the Serenity prayer, "Dear God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Heather complained of her anxiety especially when she was trying to fall asleep at night and during the day when she was in groups of people. In exploring the factors that seemed to contribute to these feelings of anxiety and her attempts to deal with these factors we made a little progress but Heather still not have the peace and confidence she was seeking and both she and I were frustrated with her situation. Finally, I turned my frustration over to the Holy Spirit seeking guidance and I was inspired to ask Heather,"What is your interior spiritual life like?" Heather paused, seemed to look inward in a pensive way, and said, "What an interesting question." We went on to talk about her prayer life, her attempts at meditation (mindfulness), and she began to noticeably relax.

It seemed that Heather did have an interior spiritual life which had not been recognized and acknowledged before. In reflecting on her engagement with her interior spiritual life, her pervasive anxiety began to subside and she reported longer periods of peace.

It seemed to me that her recognition and acknowledgement and further engagement with her interior spiritual life allowed Heather to let go of her anxieties and trust her intuition of her inner Higher Power.

At the end of the day, when we die, we all have to learn to let go unless, as Bruce Cockburn sings in his great song, Last Night Of The World, "we all have to be pried loose." What ultimately are we afraid of? We unconsciously sense that we have cut ourselves off from our Creator and this separation creates anxiety and deep yearning we often can't clearly identify to go back home. Peace comes from remembering what we really are and in that re-membering we become one with the all which brings a peace beyond understanding.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In the last analysis Love is all there is.

The Beatles got it right in their song, Love Is All You Need. In the last analysis, after all the drama, Love is all there is. We forget this and get caught up in judgment and strife. But underneath the insanity we create, we sense there is Love. It is true that Love is all you need, but more importantly is the awareness that Love is all there is. And so why do we fret and stew and suffer?

The Buddha taught us that suffering comes from attachment. A Course In Miracles teaches us that suffering comes from separation of ourselves from God and from one another. We forget our Source and in our willfulness even reject and resent our Source. In the drama that occurs with the creations of our egos we smother the awareness of our Loving Source.

In therapy when clients are describing their problems with me I will ask "What do you make of all that?" and they will retreat somewhat and say, "I don't know." and I will say, "Yes, you do." and they will look inward and come up with an answer or if they still resist, I will say, "Guess" and they always come up with something.

We do know deep down that our source is Unconditional Love which we have forgotten. Sometimes this awareness is so repressed that we have lost contact with it, but if we ask the Holy Spirit for help we become aware of the timeless wonder of the Love that is all there is.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Keeping it real is creating heaven on earth.

We live now in a media and digital age where "Fake news" is the accusation of the day when we become aware of anything we don't agree with. What is the truth becomes even more questionable. And so, the question "What is the truth?" becomes even more important.

 A Course In Miracles teaches that Truth is the existence of God's unconditional love which goes beyond definition. It says in the Course's introduction, "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 our natural inheritance." Can we give up our egos and get out of our own way? The drama of our egos are blocks to our awareness of love's presence and the truth.

In dissolving our egos or rising above them, we become mirrors of God's Holiness. God's love reflects off our beings as off a mirror. As Stephen Gaskin said one time, "In the last analysis all we have to offer others is our own state of being." What condition is your condition in? Is your condition authentic, genuine, sincere?

Lying, now called "spin," has become so acceptable that we have come to expect it from politicians, advertisers, proselytizers of all stripes, and even from friends and loved ones. Back in the 60s we would ask whether a person had his/her "shit together," whether in communicating with him/her we got "good or bad vibes."

My granddaughter said to her mother upon meeting the mother of her school friend in the mall, "Mama that woman is off. Isn't something wrong with her?" Indeed, the woman was very histrionic and full of hyperbole and my 8 year old granddaughter had picked up on it. At a young age, people know the truth.

And so, we might say that "truth" is very close to authenticity. People in California talk about "keeping it real." How authentic, how real are you keeping things in your life?

Today, when someone greets you and asks, "Hi. How are you doing?" You might try responding, "I'm great. I'm keeping it real." Being authentic, genuine, sincere, is mirroring the manifestation of God's love and creating heaven on earth.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Death and the spiritual life

Nothing can provide a spur to one's spiritual life like a brush with death. Facing one's mortality square in the face brings existential concerns front and center. Considering one's imminent death leads one to reflect on what one has done with one's life and what is left to do - the so called "bucket list."

For me consideration of the end of my life left me feeling full of gratitude and thinking of all the people I was grateful to and wanted to say good bye to. It dawned on me that getting to the end of one's life and being full of gratitude is the sign and largest criterion for what we call "the good life."

The "good life" is one, the philosopher's tell us, comprised of virtue. Has one lived a life based on honesty, kindness, compassion, effort, good work, appreciation of beauty, recognition of evil, and awareness of one's Higher Power?

A life of reverence is better than a life of cynicism although cynicism has its place. "Don't mistake my being kind for being a fool," is an important principle. However, love and forgiveness trumps everything else.

Facing one's imminent death focuses one's attention and priority setting becomes much more desired. What is really important? "Will this make a difference after I am dead for the world left behind" becomes the navigational North Star by which one can make decisions.

People have said that they never started living until they were faced with their imminent death. Nothing focuses one's attention as well on what is really important.