Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How does your media diet influence your spirituality?

One of the things I learned early in my life was what media to consume. Some magazines, newspapers, TV shows, radio programs, movies, and now days social media can be uplifting and nurturing of our spiritual development and other social media not so much. Your media diet should be taken as significant as your food and beverage diet.

We live in the media age of irony and snark which often engages in calumny. In the realm of politics, our discourse has become not only uncivil but abusive, and intentionally so, as "negative" campaigning, it is believed, will lead to electoral victory.

The higher developed spiritually mature person will eschew such media products not because they are evil but because they are absurd and based on the drama of the ego. Just as one would not ingest tainted or spoiled food and beverages, the spiritually mature person would not consume tainted or spoiled media that promote values and beliefs that may be toxic to the human spirit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Growing old and growing up - two different things

Having been raised a Roman Catholic, I was taught about the seven sacraments for the Roman Catholic church which, unlike most of the Protestant denominations, is a sacramental church. These sacraments occur at points in major transitions in the human life cycle: infant baptism at birth, first Eucharist and penance at the "age of reason" around age 7, confirmation in adolescence, marriage and ordination as a gateway to adulthood and generativity, and last rites at death. Other religions have similar rites of passage. Which rites of passage have been meaningful to you in your spiritual life?

Currently, at 71, I am an elder and it is a role I am still learning how to enact for myself and others in my life. Our contemporary society doesn't help much, as there are no clear rites of passage into elderhood other than obtaining Social Security, Medicare, and, perhaps, retiring from one's main career or professions although many continue to work if they are able at least part time.

Elderhood is also a time of generativity when there is a concern about helping the younger generation benefit from what one has learned from one's life experience. This role is not taken by all older people. As one wag put it, "Growing old and growing up are two different things." As we continue to be alive we all grow older but whether we grow up is a choice and intention we each must make. Growing up has to do with spiritual development. It is the ever increasing development of wisdom.

Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. If one has lived and is living an examined life, wisdom is the result, it not then not so much.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Who have been your spiritual teachers?

When we talk about our spiritual lives I want to ask the person, "Who have been your spiritual  teachers?" At my age of 71, I  answer, "There have been so many I couldn't name them all. However, if I had to name the ones who have been the most important I would say, 'Jesus' and 'Osho'. I would also have to mention 'A Course In Miracles.'

Spiritual teachers I have known personally I can't say. Have I ever had what is called a "guru" or "spiritual director?" The answer is "no." It's not that I haven't looked for one, but none have appeared and so I have relied on texts for the most part.

In terms of understanding spiritual development, I have gotten the most from James Fowler and Ken Wilbur as well as Lawrence Kohlberg.

I am very grateful for my spiritual teachers and the work they have done and the lives they have lived. The test of spiritual teaching is experience.  I ask myself and others, "and how is that working for you?" If the teaching helps you get your life on a better track and works for you, then it more likely is authentic, genuine, and true. If not keep on searching.

Different teachers appear at different stages of life and spiritual development. Teachers who were important at one stage may not be as important or even relevant to later stages.

At the stage I am at now in my spiritual life, I am looking for teachers of peace. The teachers of peace, teach love, forgiveness, and oneness.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Forgive your brothers and sisters and gain peace.

The appreciation of the cosmic consciousness, the mystical body of Christ, the oversoul, the godhead, is based on loving our brothers and sisters no matter what their sins, what their mistakes. This is a very difficult call and challenge. The immature are not ready. They can't experience this appreciation because they sill live in fear for their safety. They still identify with their bodies and not with their souls. Once you realize that you are a spirit living in a body and not a body with a spirit your perspective changes. You have come a long way. You are becoming mature. You are no longer immature.

Rising above the drama and mistakes of our brothers and sisters takes a big person, a person with an awareness that far exceeds the everyday nonsense born of our illusions and projections.

Bob said to me angrily, "This isn't right, man! It's bullshit!"

And I said, "How right you are! What will you do?"

Bob said, "I'm gonna set them straight. I'm gonna get to the bottom of this! I'm gonna show them!"

And I said, "Sounds like a waste of time, effort, and energy to me. They're not going to listen to you."

"Okay, if you know so much, what should I do?"

I said, "It's up to you. However if it were me, I'd rise above it. I've got better things to be doing with my time and energy. You're throwing pearls before swine if you know what I mean. Did you hear the one about the farmer who tried to teach his pig to sing?"

"What about it," said Bob?

"Frustrated the hell out of the farmer and annoyed the hell out of the pig," I said.

"Yeah, well," said Bob.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is that all there is?

Once we remember that we are not our body but rather our spirit we have to decide to which, our body or spirit, we will give our allegiance. In most religious traditions this awareness is called "remembering" as in re-member, becoming again consciously aware of our membership in the body of Christ, the cosmic consciousness, the Oneness of Creation.

In A Course In Miracles, this decision to re-member the Oneness from which we have come and to eschew the separation is called "right mindedness." We no longer are insane in thinking that the egoistic world is real and recognize that we have created a world of illusion. It is written in A Course In Miracles: " The exaltation of the body is given up in favor of the spirit, which you love as you could never love the body." T-19.D.5:4

A friend of mine, Peter, said to me one time, "Dave, don't you think there is so much more to life that we just don't understand?"

I said, "Yes, sometimes I have that thought and feeling too. It's like there is a glimmer of something beyond. I reminded of that old Peggy Lee song, 'Is that all there is?'

"Yeah, well," said Peter, "I've decided to pay more attention to that feeling and sense and less to the drama of my every day life. It seems to make me happier. Do you think I'm nuts?"

"Many people would," I said. "But I don't. I get it, and I'm with you."

"Thank you," Peter said. "You're a good friend."

"Likewise, coming back to you," I said. "What about those Bills this year! Doing pretty well aren't they?"

Monday, October 23, 2017

The big picture not every day dramas

We mistakenly think we are a body and not a part of the mystical body of Christ or a part of the cosmic consciousness or a part of the godhead. We are an extension of the energy and force of the universe. As such we don't die we just change form. The form changes but not the content. We are part of the All and the All is what we are not the body.

This identification with a body degrades our peace. Our ego engenders distress on so many levels in so many areas. The ego creates drama all the time. As a client said to me the other day, "It seems things just keep happening to me. It's one thing after an other!" We laughed. It is funny. The dramas we construct are often incongruous and absurd.

A Course In Miracles teaches that the answer to our lives of drama is to turn them over to the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to judge for us, because, if we are honest and being authentic and genuine, what do we know?

A Course In Miracle suggests we say this little prayer:

"Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me,
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make it an obstacle to peace, but
let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming."

The modern day version of this prayer would be:

"Dear Lord, help me! Fuck it. Don't worry, be happy."

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dying with a life well lived

The ego, whose identification is with the body, is terrified by death. The ego knows that with the end of the body, the ego is done, toast, no longer able to do its work in the imagined world of its host.

When it is realized that what we call the person is spirit and not a body, the fear of death loses its grip. The physical body dies but the spirit lives on in the stories that are told about the person in the memories of those left behind and maybe beyond.

A mature spirituality realizes that the spirit is immortal as the law of physics called thermodynamics teaches us. The energy of what we call the person is converted and absorbed back into the ground of being. We become one with the all.

What is at issue is whether we are consciously aware at death or "knocked out." If we are consciously aware at our death, our transition, we forgive others and become aware of forgiveness by them, and we surrender to the will of our Higher Power. When this conscious awareness of our "passing" occurs, there is great peace, if not joy, at going home to the oneness from which we sprang.

Obviously, there can be great grief on the part of others who will miss our bodily presence, and sometimes, we, even ourselves, may grieve the loss of these relationships in this incarnation.

The question is how will I die? Will it be in peace or distress? Will it be with a sense of completion or a sense of distress at wasted opportunities?

One of the huge benefits of a mature spirituality is a great peace and joy for a life well lived.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The body or the spirit: which do you focus on?

Did you ever notice that people who focus on the body to the exclusion of the spirit wind up becoming disillusioned and miserable? Have you ever noticed the fleeting pleasure that the body provides only to become satiated and then anxious again for another fix for whatever it is craving? Does it seem that nothing is ever good enough and there is a greedy belief that more and more is better? Have you noticed that this chasing after bodily pleasures deprives us from any lasting peace?

There is something perverse and sad about the preoccupation and obsessions and compulsions that drive our physical attempts to soothe our troubled cravings. We have misplaced our focus on the expected source of our desired peace and joy on the body instead of the mind.

It is written in A Course In Miracles:

"The body can bring you neither peace nor turmoil; neither joy nor pain. 5 It is a means, and not an end. 6 It has no purpose of itself, but only what is given to it. 7 The body will seem to be whatever is the means for reaching the goal that you assign to it. 8 Only the mind can set a purpose, and only the mind can see the means for its accomplishment, and justify its use. " T-18.B.i.10:4-10

The tendency to objectify the body and submit to lust rather than take interest in and appreciate the spirit is a mistake. This mistake, while momentarily can give us pleasure, robs us of longer term joy and well being. The mature person who has achieved a degree of wisdom knows this.

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.