NaBloPoMo ~ What I Got with the Go-For-It Rule

14762-TypewriterFour score weeks and 30 posts ago, I first heard of NaBloPoMo – the month of November when thousands of bloggers make a commitment to post something every day to get into the habit of daily blogging, to build momentum and readership, to learn from each other and to become actual legitimate bonafide bloggers.  I was hesitant at first because, after the last 3 or 4 years of my life I have developed a severe allergy to stress and, being very grateful for the chance to turn over a new leaf, I have been very careful to not add stress to my new life.  However, I had been praying for my next purpose.

With NaBloPoMo I felt like God was saying, your next mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become an actual legitimate bonafide blogger.  So, I accepted.  I applied the Go-For-It Rule of diving in, embracing the challenge of posting every day, accepting my next mission not with stress and ‘oh my God, how can I post every day’ but with joy and ‘wow, God, I get to post every day.’

And I am so thankful I said yes!

Having the experience of writing every day, editing and polishing, contemplating and adding to, waking up with 3 ideas for posts and generally having my blog become a part of me, I can genuinely say that I love being a writer.  It fits.  I feels like me.

When I am writing I just feel alive, totally engaged, fully present in the moment and aligned with All That Is.  I feel at peace inside.  For a long time I have thought about writing, I have written a little bit here and there, I have dreamed about my life as a writer.  The most amazing gift of this experience is discovering that I AM a writer.  Not in a dream, in real life.  And all I had to do was say yes.

2014-01-11 16.37.19I know it’s not all that I am, I know that what we do doesn’t define us and we all contain multitudes.  I know that in essence we are not writers or plumbers or artists or teachers or engineers – we are just love.  However, the expression of love that feels most like my skin in this world at this moment is that of a writer.

I am a writer.  There, I said it.  Yes, I might also be an administrative assistant.  Yes, I might also be a sister and a daughter and an auntie.  I might also be a mama to my little Peachy. I might also be a Peace activist. And I am first and foremost a lover of God.  And all of these aspects tie into my experience and my expression as a writer.

I also have a confession to make to all my fellow NaBloPoMo’ers.  I was not stressed at all.  I had fun.  There was only one day where I had frustration with my post and it was because after I had finished writing and was adding pictures the wordpress website glitched and I lost it all and had to write it all over again.  I had an abundance of topics and inspiration, in fact I have 34 more ideas saved as drafts.  I would be so excited some evenings I would write 2 posts.  One day I wrote 3 posts, so then I got to take the weekend off.  As I read all the comments and posts about the struggle of NaBloPoMo and how challenging it was, I almost felt bad for having so much fun.

Sophie & Isabel grabbing Sn's legsSo – here in the last post of the month I am going to address my first NaBloPoMo prompt.  One of the prompts was asking have you found your blog’s voice?  I actually did think about that on and off all month.  My blog’s voice is simply my voice.  However serious or silly I am, however devotional or contemplative, however reverent or irreverent, however nerdy or quirky, however awe-struck or amazed I am – so is my blog.  I really don’t want to try to shape it any other way.  I don’t want to do anything except be myself and be a writer.  For me it hasn’t been so much finding the voice of my blog.  It is more that blogging has helped me find my voice.

Thank you!  And Thank You!

Times Are A’Changin’ – or Are They?

6a50a4c6098d43f9e6de4d24f5d2d508Here is a quote about the state of our youth.  Can you guess who said it?

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Did you guess? Emily Post?  Miss Manners?  Donald Trump?

I’ll give you a hint.  The quote is from someone who died 2413 years ago.

This is what Socrates said about the youth of his day.  For some reason I find that hysterically funny.

Yesterday morning, the morning after Thanksgiving at my sister’s house, we were sitting around the kitchen table, extended to accommodate the extra family Three Types of Political Campaignsmembers.  As tends to happen at family gatherings during holidays and special occasions, the conversation steered towards the state of the American political system (broken), the intelligence of American politicians (or lack there of) and the state of our youth (rude with no attention span).  Then I thought of Socrates.  And after the discussion of how cell phones have ruined our youth, I used my cell phone to google the quote.

It is oddly comforting to me that people were complaining about the youth of their day over two millennia ago, sounding exactly like something my grandmother might have said.  Our breakfast conversation was actually similar to Socrates (that is a lofty claim, I know, but our conversation didn’t get any more philosophical than this derision of young people).  I realized that if Socrates was offended by the youth of ancient Greece, maybe the youth of our day isn’t so bad.  Maybe they are just being youth and we are just being the grown ups who complain about them gobbling their food without any manners.

Then I remembered the very true (though somewhat slurred) story about the election of 1800 from Drunk History:

 

When we get down about negative campaigning or smear tactics in today’s politics, it’s good to remember the antics of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams 214 years ago.  They were basically behaving like two 8 year-olds throwing mud at each other – each one trying to out-do the other in outlandish and completely untrue negative ads.  Thomas Jefferson went to the newspaper and told them John Adams was a hermaphrodite – there are actual printed statements that Adams had both male and female sex organs.  John Adams told the media that everyone should vote for him because Jefferson was dead – and even if you disagreed with everything Adams said, at least he was alive!

When I saw this clip, I again had a strange sense of optimism.  If this is what our founding fathers were up to over 200 years ago and we are still around and haven’t ruined ourselves with our own stupidity, then maybe we’re doing ok.  Maybe, just maybe, we are actually getting better.  Even with all the negative attack ads and political spin, at least our candidates aren’t just blatantly making up stuff about each others sex organs.

hopeYou see, instead of seeing that we are all doomed because our youth and our politicians have always been deplorable, I see that our youth and our politicians are just being how they have always been and humanity has just had a tendency to complain.  That doesn’t make everything horrible.  Even if people like to lament about the state of young people, politicians and the weather while sitting around a breakfast table, the world is actually quite a wonderful place.

Maybe our youth aren’t so rude.  Maybe we are making progress.  Maybe things are actually changing for the better.  Maybe we ARE evolving.  Maybe there is hope.

Contradictions, Paradox and Unity

walt-whitman1Way back in my high school days of Dead Poets Society and Oh Captain my Captain teenage angst poetry I remember loving this line by Walt Whitman:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

The older and hopefully wiser I get, the more I love that line.  It is true.

Sometimes in writing I worry about contradicting myself, like it will make me lose my credibility or make me look inconsistent or like I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about (which I have never claimed that I do, so if it turns out I don’t know what I’m talking about, there is no contradiction there).  But of course I contradict myself!  Contradicting myself doesn’t mean that I am inconsistent or hypocritical.  It simply means that life contradicts itself.

I also worry about contradicting others.  The other day I saw a friend of mine and she said to me “was this post about so-and-so?”  My first thought was – oh my God, people are actually reading what I write!  My second thought was – uh-oh, people are actually reading what I write.  How do I go about clarifying and refining my understandings without being anti-anything or giving anyone the impression I think they are wrong.  Doesn’t there have to be some form of “not this, not this, not this…”  Yet saying “not this” doesn’t negate the unity.  The unity is large, it contains multitudes.

I wrote in an earlier post about my concern about responding to something I disagree with in my posts.  I don’t want to be “anti” anyone or have my energy come across as disagreeable.  I want to embrace and unify and bring love.  And sometimes I hear something come out of someone that doesn’t feel 100% true to me and so I contemplate and ponder, I focus my awareness on what it is I am feeling and I gain more clarity inside myself.  Then I share that in my writing.

0124Like the other day, with my dear friend’s habitual “it’s all an illusion” utterances.  Yet when I emailed him and said hey, I wrote about you today, he replied that he was honored.  “I am truly honored…uh…in that i was mentioned in wonderful piece in such a loving way and that i could be a cause of such deep contemplations.”  And what’s more, he said that he really agrees with me that it is the separation that is an illusion and that the  “disengaging interpretation engenders apathy and by golly, boredom, ‘nothing matters because everything is an illusion…’  c’mon, what about living. (if talking to a dog, ‘flare those nostrils and experience the melange within each instant, free from the obscuring delusion of thought.)”

For every person that has said something that I have deeply listened to, contemplated and responded, I hope they would have the same experience.  I’m sure that they are just as sincere in their seeking as I am and that deep down inside they share the same longing to know Truth, to love God and to live in Unity and Happiness.  I hope we all get closer to the answers that we are seeking and that we can help each other along the way by comparing and contrasting, clarifying and refining, inspiring each other into deep contemplation and deeper understanding of this beautiful paradoxical vastness we live in.

Heck, half the time after I publish a post I think – oh, but the opposite is also true.  A few days later I’ll post something that says – oh, and I want to disagree with myself.

God is in Her very nature paradoxical.  God is a beautiful mystery.  In the vastness that is God, seemingly opposite things can both be true at the same time.  In fact, multiple things that seem contradictory can all be true. It is true that nothing matters because God will always win and happiness is inevitable for all living things.  It is also true that everything matters because it is up to us to stand with God and each moment that we prolong the suffering for any creature is a betrayal of our own loving nature.

goldeneggIn Hinduism there are multiple creation stories.  In one version the creation emerged from a Golden Cosmic Egg.  In another version, the great man-God Purusa was dismembered and each of his body parts formed a different caste of humans. The ancient Rig Veda gives a strikingly modern agnostic rendition – not so much a creation story as a creation pondering, stating that we don’t really know what happened and maybe even God doesn’t know:

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then… What stirred? Where? In whose protection?… Who really knows? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?… Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not – the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven (God), only he knows – or perhaps he does not know.”

There is not one definitive truth of creation.  Yet, somehow, it doesn’t really bother Hindus in general.  No one seems to mind the blatant contradictions and multiple versions of events.  They are not so concerned with there only being one account of the creation of the universe.  I guess they just have an acceptance that the universe is large and it contains multitudes.  Just as there are hundreds of gods and only One God at the same time.  Hinduism is often depicted as “polytheist” but it is really radically monotheistic, seeing all gods, and indeed all of life, as a manifestation of the one Divine. The hundreds of gods are varying expressions or faces of the One God who is vast beyond all time and space – so vast that God contradicts Herself all the time!

It doesn’t make sense.  It’s not meant to.  It’s not possible for God in all Her vastness to make sense.  Yet She is the Supreme Order of the Universe.  Yet She is what feels like totally obvious common sense inside our hearts.

JesusLovesYouBeachI once saw a bumper sticker that said “Jesus loves you but I am his favorite.”  I know it was meant to be funny, but what struck me is that it was so perfect because it’s true. The only thing is, it’s true for every single person on the planet.  Jesus (and God) completely loves you the most out of every being in the universe – you are his favorite.  And you, too.  And you.  And so forth.  Jesus is vast, he contains multitudes.

God is a paradox.  I contradict myself.  Opposites are true.  Deal with it.

Give Thanks & Take Thanksgiving Off

MD-HappyThanksgiving_11-2012Happy Thanksgiving.

I am going to take Thanksgiving Off.

In all honesty, I’ve been writing my posts ahead of time and scheduling them to post on a given day, so I could easily take Thanksgiving off and still write a post that would appear on Thanksgiving Day as if I had written it this morning.

However – in protest of all the stores who are starting the Black Friday craze a day early on Thanksgiving Day, turning the entire heart centered warm and fuzzy gratitude filled holiday into one big materialistic consumer driven buying frenzy and forcing thousands of low-income minimum wage earning cashiers and store clerks to work on Thanksgiving, this is it – this is the only post you get.

Now – go and enjoy some time with loved ones, think of all the love and connections you have in your life, ponder all the blessings in your life and pray that soon you’ll even appreciate all those blessings-in-disguise.  Take some time this weekend to make some Christmas presents.  Give love to everyone around you.  Give to a charity of your time and/or money.  Give thanks to God, to Allah, to Shiva and to the Great Spirit!

Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Shanti


Grassroots efforts to Stop Thanksgiving Day Shopping

Boycott Black Thursday Facebook Page

 

 

Diamond Rings and Body Hair

shavingYou guessed it.  Here is this week’s silly post.  Last week it was about shaved heads.  This week – diamond rings and body hair.

You might be asking yourself “How are diamond rings and body hair even related?”  Well, they are related by the fact that they both have an arbitrary cultural meaning that really has nothing to do with anything.

Here is a video illustrating how diamond engagement rings didn’t even exist before an advertising campaign started in 1938 by De Beers Diamond Company.  It must be the most successful advertising campaign in all of history because now diamond engagement rings are just a part of our culture.  And not just in America, but all over the world.  Wow.  That kind of blows my mind.

Ok, so what about the body hair?

Well, women and body hair is really the same thing.  I don’t know who it was that decided that women should not have any visible body hair.  It probably wasn’t De Beers Diamond Corporation and maybe it wasn’t in an advertising campaign, but somehow this also became just a part of our culture.

If you actually think about it, it’s really weird. Who can even come up with something so weird?  The hair that grows quite naturally on our legs and in our armpits and around our secret places, for some reason this is considered unacceptable?  What?  Who had that idea? How did that come about the first time in history?  And why on earth did a second person agree that it was a good thing to do?  And then a third person, and then a whole society?

73383679.jpgFor some unknown reason women all over the world shave, wax, epilate and tweeze all kinds of hairs in all kinds of places.

And yet, as bizarre and non-nonsensical as these societal norms may be, they are barely questioned.  And what’s more – I’m sold. When I get engaged – I want a ring!  Don’t go thinking you can just propose without getting down on that knee and popping one of them boxes open.  It would feel weird not to have a ring on my finger (though I’d happily figure out a way to get around the whole diamond monopoly and have some other kind of stone so De Beers gets nothing!).

And I think my legs look better without any hair on them.  I get frustrated with shaving and then having stubble grow back in and itch like crazy and make me feel like my legs have been bitten by a thousand tiny ants.  So, then I go through the pain of pulling all my leg hairs out by the root only to have them grow back inward or side ways under my skin giving me not only little bumps and irritated hair follicles but red ugly dots as well.  Either way, it’s an ongoing physical nuisance.  What is the point again?  Why do I do this?

I’ve internalized the cultural norm.  I myself prefer my legs smooth.  I think it looks prettier.  Does this make me a shallow person? (no)  Does this make me weak minded and conformist?  (not really)  Should I rebel and grow my body hair out to make a statement? (if you want)  Does it really matter at all either way?  (probably not)

All I can say is that I guess it’s for the same reason that I speak English or I wear jeans and t-shirts instead of walking around naked – it’s part of my culture.  It’s part of the weird generally agreed upon societal norms that we all just made up.  And sometimes they make sense, like wearing boots in snowy climates, and sometimes it makes no sense at all, like shaving your lady parts.

shaving-2So, it’s good to be aware of this.  And it’s good to step back and question these norms.  Even if you decide to play along, it’s good to do so through conscious choice.

And sometimes these norms are a lot less silly than shaving your legs or buying an engagement ring.  Sometimes these societal norms we just accept as reality are disempowering and oppressive and it DOES matter if you question and rebel and choose to make a new reality.  Sometimes these accepted realities are world-wide – like violence between nations being an acceptable way to “resolve” conflict.  Sometimes these norms are societal, like women not having the right to vote or get an education.  Sometimes the norms can just be within one church, like gays and lesbians going to hell and being treated as less than human.  Sometimes the norms can just be within a family, like a wife being submissive and belittled.  And in each of these circumstances, it’s easy to see the wrongness looking at it from the outside.  And it’s important to understand that it’s not always so easily seen from inside that reality. That is where compassion comes in.

If another intelligent species were to come to earth and see how when men and women decide to mate for life the man spends 2 months salary to buy a common crystallized carbon rock ring and how all the women spend so much time and effort and discomfort to remove all their body hair – what would it look like from the outside? That’s where I’d hope they would have compassion for us and not just think we were really really weird or just plain silly.

Faking it, Holiday movies and The Inside Job

its-a-wonderful-life-movie-poster-1946-1010458427In Friday’s post I know I said that once we start to do our karma yoga or our charitable deeds, it doesn’t really matter what our internal motivation is.  Given that tis the season for holiday charity, I want to both agree and disagree with myself.

In a certain sense, “Fake it til you make it” works. If it wasn’t so, there are countless holiday movies about transformation and Christmas miracles that just would not have ever gotten made.

Even if you’re not entirely selfless when you sign up to volunteer down at the homeless shelter, chances are your heart will be touched, your eyes will be opened, your horizons will be broadened… what I’m saying is, you’ll learn stuff.  It’s even possible that if you sign up to serve at a free medical clinic simply because you have a crush on the doctor who works there, that you’ll be transformed by the experience (insert holiday movie trailer with this or similar plot line here).

It’s even possible that if, instead of getting expelled from high school, you get “sentenced” to community service helping the former nurse at the free medical clinic who is now married to said doctor and runs an inner city at-risk youth center, you could learn a thing or two and be saved from a life of crime yourself (insert trailer for holiday movie sequel here).

xmas2009hallWhat’s more, whether your intentions are as pure as the driven snow in Antarctica or not, if you are volunteering for an organization that is actively reducing carbon emissions in America, then you are saving that driven snow and the iceberg it is on either way.  If people are getting fed, if the rainforest is being saved and if poor children are getting warm jackets, it is a very good thing.  At that point, if the person giving the warm jacket did it just so they could look good at church, who cares?

In these ways, the underlying intention doesn’t matter.

However, there are also ways in which intention is everything.  Maybe even the same ways.

Change and transformation is an INSIDE JOB.  This is true both for our own small lives and the greater whole of the planet.

On the personal level, that means that no matter if our initial intention is 100% pure and selfless or not, we need to at least be internally open to grow and learn and transform.  If we remain internally closed off and angry, then no amount of outer service can transform us.  It is something we have to do from the inside.  If we go through our mandatory service at the homeless shelter hanging on to our self-centered self-righteousness, we could see everything from our skewed perspective and just come out thHomeless-For-The-Holidayse other side with more prejudice and bah humbug.  They don’t make holiday movies about this, but I’m sure it happens.

If you are a person who donates cans at Thanksgiving and volunteers at Christmas time, but act like a complete and utter jerk the rest of the year, you’re not really making the world a better place.

On the planetary level, if a person is giving a warm coat just to look good at church but hangs on to thought forms of class-ism and greed – the poor are lazy and it’s their own fault – then they are part of creating our society that makes that young child cold and hungry to begin with.  If we want to not only put one jacket on one cold child, but transform our world and change mass consciousness, then the internal intention is key.

On another level that is a mix between the personal and the planetary – the energy that you put into something makes a difference.

volunteer-bell-ringerIf you stand outside your local grocery store ringing the Salvation Army bell and you genuinely pray to be an instrument of Christ’s love and to smile and spread holiday cheer to all who pass by, at the end of the day you will have collected 185 dollars and 28 cents and increased the amount of warm fuzzy happiness on the planet and made countless people feel a little more love.  If, on the other hand, you ring the same Salvation Army bell at the same grocery store and you are stressed and self-absorbed, at the end of the day you will have collected 185 dollars and 28 cents period.

If you deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income families and you do so with warmth and genuine love and care, you might turn a whole family’s year around.  You never know the impact sincere intention can have on the world around you.

Likewise, the impact sincere intention can have inside of you is also very powerful, no matter the outer circumstances.

volunteer-Vietnam-1If you are sincere in your desire to help others and make the world a better place and you volunteer for an organization that turns out to be not as pure as your intention – it doesn’t matter.  God sees your intention.  The inner transformation you receive is according to your own inner sincerity.  And the love and compassion you have spread into the world comes from the purity of your heart only.

If a good-hearted, fit and handsome young law student who is a little bit disillusioned with his family over the holidays, instead of going home for Thanksgiving volunteers at an orphanage that turns out to be a front for an illegal child labor ring, it can still turn into a big holiday action box office smash hit.

I don’t know why I keep going from deep inner most sincere intention to inspirational holiday movie plot lines.  I guess it’s the way we learn things this time of year.  So, whenever you’re curled up on the couch watching the holiday line up of movies, just keep your intention in mind and see what you might learn about goodness, charity and the magic of Christmas from a place of both outer service AND inner sincerity.  Oh, and keep going all year round.

And here is a little something to help you on your way:

Thanksgiving Interfaith Experience

nterfaith-harmony-300x300Last Thursday I attended our town’s annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service, hosted by the Grace United Methodist church and featuring speakers from a variety of faiths.  It was lovely and inspiring and very well attended.

It started with a beautiful Hindu dance introduced by my friend Arpita.  It included a Buddhist contemplation read by my friend Jane and a passage from the Koran by my friend Dilara.  There was a beautiful dance number to a Gospel song by three young girls from the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  My own “liberal Episcopalian” Father Ted read a psalm.  A local Rabbi read verses from the Old Testament.  My old surfer friend from college turned Presbyterian pastor spoke about the Ecumenical Food Pantry.  And a distinguished local professor of theology gave a very inspiring humanistic sermon on gratitude and cherishing our connections with each other.  We even got to sing one of my very favorite hymns – O Creatures of our God and King!  The whole evening made my heart sing.

As we went through our whirl-wind tour of each major religion, each one lasting approximately 3 to 5 minutes, I was struck by two things.  One – the beauty of all these varying religions coming together honoring our similarities and the common thread of love, compassion and gratitude that is central to all our faiths.  And two – the craving for more from each faith and my desire to experience God from every perspective.

It gave me the idea that in addition to having an interfaith service, for those who wanted to, we could have an interfaith experience.

The experience doesn’t necessarily have to take that much longer – it’s just that instead of just sitting there like audience members passively watching the different faith expressions being played out before us, we would participate in each one all of us together.

So, for the Hindu faith, we would do 10 minutes of chanting and everyone there would dive into it head first and chant Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram with the most devotional of hearts. During the gospel song, we all stand up, sway back and forth and sing with full passion for the Lord, reaching up our hands as we are moved by the Holy Spirit.  During the Shema-Israel-PrayerBuddhist segment, we not only hear a reading about meditating for all beings everywhere to become one with their higher nature, we fully meditate, visualize and feel this from the deep peace of our own higher nature.  For the Jewish segment we could all tie the words of the Shema to our foreheads and fervently pray “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  After the reading from the Koran we could all engage in a sufi dance of Universal Peace.  And for the singing of ‘O Creatures of our God and King’ we would all sing the words deeply connected to our hearts, feeling the truth of the words resonate through us with the beauty of the Christ Spirit, just like I do with Christmas Carols.

Again – this would only be for anyone who wanted to fully participate.  I don’t think that devote Catholics need to experience sufi dancing or Gospel singing in order to truly love God.  As long as we are honoring and respecting each other, we’re good.  And it was truly beautiful to see how packed the church was that night – there were so many people that they ran out of programs, more people attended than they had anticipated.  And if you’re not inclined to participate in other faiths, then sitting and honoring all the different expressions in an interfaith service is wonderful.  But I am the kind of person who WANTS to dive in.

EBC_Exterior_2011I remember 20 years ago, during college, I went down to Atlanta, Georgia and volunteered at the Open Door Community for 10 days.  It was a life changing experience and maybe I’ll write about that in another post.  In this post I’m talking about this one evening where we, the people and volunteers of the Open Door, went to an interfaith service for Martin Luther King’s birthday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Now, this was no ordinary Martin Luther King celebration.  This was the church where Martin Luther King Jr. had been a pastor.  There were speakers from all different faiths honoring the beautiful legacy and life of this incredible man.

And the choir!  They had the most amazing gospel choir I have ever heard.  They stood in the back of the church and when they sang the Amen the sound and the feeling of the Amen blasted through the whole entire church like a tidal wave of praise!

I was this very white Swedish-American college girl.  I had NEVER been to a church like this before.  The pastor was calling on people to stand up to oppression, to stand up for Christ’s love and compassion.  The congregation was alive and passionate and yelling out “Amen!” and “Tell the truth, brother!” as the different rabbis, pastors, ministers and imams spoke.  People were throwing their hands up in the air when they agreed with something, saying “Praise the Lord!”

And the choir!  The music moved me, the harmonized Alleluias went straight into my heart and broke it wide open.  I couldn’t understand how the roof stayed on or how the walls didn’t come blasting off the building.  The music was so powerful that it filled the entire space in a tangible immersion of praise.

choirI was sitting there getting FILLED with so much inspiration, so much spirit, so much passion!  And yet I couldn’t yell out.  I WANTED to.  I wanted to raise my hand up and say “Alleluia!” – but I couldn’t.  I was too white.  I was too self-conscious.  I hadn’t given myself permission to fully participate.  I was amazed and dazed and just too white.

As we left the service and were walking to our bus to take us back to the Open Door, these two African American men who were part of the community came up to me and smiled.  One of them said “The Spirit was in her, I could see it!”  They both laughed and I just nodded my head.  I was speechless.

All this to say that I WANT to participate.  I want to fully experience all expressions of loving God.  If I’m listening to a gospel choir, I want to let the Spirit move me and shout out to the Lord!  If I’m chanting Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram I want to FEEL the Victory of Ram in my heart.  If I’m going to communion, I want to commune and become ONE with the body of Christ.

I would love to have an actual Thanksgiving Interfaith Experience.  I don’t want to be a spectator.  I don’t want to be limited to being just a too-white Swedish-American quiet and contained Lutheran heritage girl.  I want to experience being something else – a Southern Baptist, a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a liberal Episcopalian.  I want to live life to the fullest!  I want to love God and Give Thanks every which way!

10088-thanksgiving

Christmas Carols are REAL!

carolingOK, it is almost Thanksgiving and they are already playing Christmas Carols all over the place, so I am excited to share with you the amazing fact that, aside from adding a wonderful feeling of warmth and cheer to any family gathering, holiday party or shopping experience, Christmas Carols are REAL!

For the first 27 years of my life, I listened to Christmas Carols like most people do.  They made me feel warm and fuzzy, they reminded me of sweet Christmas memories and time with my sisters growing up and they generally reminded me of the goodwill of the season.  Then one Christmas I listened to Christmas Carols while in a meditative state after I had been praying and communing with Christ – and WOW.  It was like I had never heard any of the songs before!

All of a sudden each Christmas carol was alive and the words were true and I could FEEL the truth of the words in my heart.  It was the mystical experience of the most common songs I had heard thousands of times in my life.  When I heard Joy to the World, I FELT immense JOY for the whole world in my heart that God had sent His loving presence in the form of the Grace and Glory of the Christ!  I had this feeling of exploding with the actual reality of the songs.  I wasn’t just hearing them as nice holiday ambiance, I was feeling the actual experience of the Christ being born inside my own heart and God’s Grace saving the entire world and it was profoundly, ecstatically and mind-blowingly beautiful.

Now, I will take a moment here to include everyone in this Grace.  I believe that Jesus was and is holy, AND I believe the the Christ Consciousness of love, compassion and forgiveness that he embodied and taught is not limited to Jesus the man or even to Christianity for that matter.  I believe that the Christ Consciousness and the redeeming Love of God comes to humanity in many forms and that God has always been reaching out to humanity with this immense mysterious Love.  Also,stargraphic the word “sin” in the original Greek actually means to “miss the mark” or “make a mistake” – so when I hear the words “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,” I don’t take it to mean that the world was twisted and depraved and we were all horrible evil people – it’s just that we were in error, we were missing the mark and not connecting to the reality of God’s Love – and in God sending the Christ Love to us (in all manner of forms), we can be “saved” from our mistakes and our ignorance and once again live in God’s everlasting peace.

So – when I hear the Christmas Carols and I am rejoicing with Joy to the World – I am feeling not my gratitude for the birth of one baby, although I am personally very grateful for the birth of that one baby – but my gratitude for the birth of God’s Love into this world.  I am feeling Joy for the whole entire world and every sentient being in it – not just for Christians or for those who happen to be celebrating this particular holiday with me.

So, back to my ecstatic rapture… It was a revelation to me when I actually not only listened to the words, but FELT the meaning of the words in my being.  Sometimes the songs are so engrained in us and such a part of the background atmosphere of Christmas that we don’t even pay attention to what they actually mean.  And of course, sometimes it’s fine to allow Christmas Carols to simply uplift your heart and give you warm fuzzies, you can’t be falling on your knees weeping tears of gratitude every time Joy to the World comes on at the grocery store.  But I invite you to just try listening to your favorite Christmas Carols as a spiritual practice or a prayerful exercise.  Allow the words to enter your heart, listen deeply to the spiritual truths that are being sung and FEEL the truths in your soul.

Here I have one version of O Holy Night, one of my personal favorites.  Just try it – turn the volume up as loud as you can and immerse yourself in the experience of this holy moment.

The-Heavenly-Host-13_5x23When you hear the words “and the soul felt its worth” – FEEL the worth of your soul!  When you hear “the weary world rejoices” allow your weary heart to rejoice!  When the choir sings of the angel voices joining in celebrating the Christ, FEEL the heavenly host and all the angels adoring God and Christ along with you in that very moment.  When you hear “Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace,” just open your heart to FEEL that as a reality – the whole world loving one another as God has taught us in every religion and path through out our bumpy history.  When you sing the words “Let all within us praise His holy name” – sing it with everything within you, praise God’s holy name with your whole self – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” 

It is a whole new experience.

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

So – with that, I wish you a most sincerely truly wondrously Merry Christmas!

THE PEANUTS GANG REJOICES IN THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

The Divine Purpose of Selfishness

me me meOn the spiritual path, selfishness and selflessness are two sides of the same coin and they can sometimes intermingle.

What I mean by that is that often our desire to even be on a spiritual path in the first place is in essence a selfish desire.  We want to end our suffering.  We want to know happiness.  We want our Enlightenment.  We want to live in Bliss.

While these desires might, in a sense, be more noble than desires such as wanting a new car or wanting a bigger house, they are still in essence coming from selfishness.

Once on our path, we might engage in service.  The Bible tells us to do charitable acts.  The Koran tells us to give alms to the poor.  The Gita tells us to do karma yoga, or “selfless action.”  Every yogic, Buddhist, Judeo-Christian or Muslim path has some form of seva or service.  So, you could say that in the beginning we might start out serving others as part of our goal of serving our own happiness, so again, from our own selfish desires.

Of course, this sounds bad, but I don’t think it is.  I think that is how God set it up.

Early on my spiritual path, that is what I wanted.  I was seeking Enlightenment.  I had enough of all this suffering and separation crap and I wanted me some bliss.  It was essentially selfish.  I wanted to know God, I wanted to understand the universe, I wanted to be happy.  Maybe somewhere mixed in there I had concerns about peace, unity, human rights and the environment, but mostly I just wanted God.

shabdaI remember this one retreat I was going on, I prayed “I want sammadhi, I want sammadhi, I want sammadhi” over and over again.  Sammadhi is the experience of Union with the Divine, a state of transcendent bliss that I had read about in many books and I wanted it!  I wrote my prayer on paper, over and over again.  “I want sammadhi, I want sammadhi, I want sammadhi.”  I filled the whole page.

At the time I thought I was being passionate about my spiritual path, that I was pouring my whole heart and soul into my desire for union with the Divine, but looking back at it, I must have looked like a three year old screaming for a toy.  I still yearn for union with the Divine, but hopefully I have grown a bit in the last 15 years and deepened my relationship with God a little bit.  At the time, sammadhi was something I wanted to experience for myself.

Yet, I can also see that the spiritual toddler that I was, screaming for my sammadhi, served a purpose.  It was a part of my spiritual development that helped me grow into a meditative pre-schooler, and then into a contemplative elementary schooler and eventually a mystical high school student.  I won’t presume to guess where I’m at in the whole process, but I at least hope I am continuing to learn.

I have this theory that every human quality has a Divine purpose or a good side.  Every human quality that we can see as a weakness or a detriment, when turned towards God is actually a good thing.  It’s just when these qualities are used to drive us away from God that they are “bad.”  So – I would say that wanting to live in blissy happiness and cozy comfy rose-colored Oneness with God is the Divine purpose of selfishness.

leprosy6And the beauty of the whole set up is that once we start to do our karma yoga or our charitable deeds, it doesn’t really matter if our internal motivation is for our own enlightenment.  As we serve down at the soup kitchen or animal shelter or children’s home, even though in a sense we were “faking it” from our own spiritual selfishness of wanting to be a good person – the very act of faking it begins to make it real.  God tricks us.  In our selfish desire to make sure we get into heaven, we begin to have our heart opened in compassion and understanding.  We open ourselves to witness the suffering and the inherent dignity and beauty of the people we are serving.  We begin to feel empathy and experience the actual Oneness of Heaven that we are hoping to attain later.  And we begin to actually spread the loving kindness of God to others and in doing so, we get to experience it ourselves.

God is pretty smart.

Pretty soon we aren’t even praying for sammadhi anymore, we’re not even selfishly in it for our own Enlightenment.  Pretty soon we just want to experience the heart breakingly exquisite feeling of being God’s instrument.  Pretty soon we just want to witness God’s Love touching other people.  Is that still coming from selfishness?  Is that still part of the selfish prayer to be One with the Love of God?  Sure.  Maybe.  Who cares.

Ironically, it was when I stopped praying for enlightenment and started praying to be an instrument that I actually started experiencing prolonged periods of happiness.  Could it be that Union with God and serving God is actually the same thing?  Again, I don’t presume to know.  But it seems that it is when we get out of the self, even in our desire for enlightenment, that we can be free of the self and actually start expanding towards enlightenment.  Oddly, we need our desire for sammadhi to propel us forward on our path, but as long as we are stuck in the self that craves sammadhi, we can’t actually GET to sammadhi.  It’s one of those ways that God is mischievous and tricky and very very funny.

There is this poem that I kept seeing on and off on my spiritual journey by Rabindranath Tagore – and now I get it:

54612e3a3e0271fd3064720d_seva2I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

 

Is the Creation All An Illusion?

medicinewheelblueI have a very dear friend who is a self-described Buddhist leaf-on-the-wind.  He is one of the kindest people I know and he earnestly strives to love and give without attachment or selfishness.  I love him and admire him, I honor his sincerity on his spiritual path, but he does have one habit that kind of bugs me.  In conversation he frequently says, “well, whatever, it’s all an illusion anyway.”

I know this is a Western popularization of the Eastern idea of Maya – the illusory world of polarities and separateness that we live in.  Maya is the world where we have us and them, you and I and where we have ego and the Self.  In modern day Quantum Physics, this notion of Maya is reinforced by the notion that we create our own reality from our own minds – that the electron does not exist until it is observed by the observer.  This notion of the world as illusion is also depicted (in a most bad-ass way, I must add) in the Matrix movies.  Here, the entire world we think we live in is literally just a computer programmed illusion meant to keep us from questioning the nature of reality.

And I love all the new physics and scientific discoveries about the Unified Field and string theory.  I love the Matrix movies and how Neo discovers that we are not limited by the confines of the illusory world we have known and we can fly and stop bullets and do some amazing kung fu!  I love the Bhagavad Gita and the Lotus Sutra and all the Eastern wise ones freeing us from our illusion of selfishness.  However – when I hear someone say the statement “it’s all an illusion anyway,” I cringe inside.

I found this gut feeling I’ve had in my insides whenever I’ve heard that statement perfectly expressed in Eknath Easwaran’s introduction to the Bhagavad Gita:

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

“The sages called the dream of waking life – the dream of separate, merely physical existence – by a suggestive name, maya… In the Gita, maya becomes the creative power of the Godhead, the primal creative energy that makes unity appear as the world of innumerable separate things with ‘name and form.’

Later philosophers explained maya in surprisingly contemporary terms… the mind looks at unity and sees diversity; it looks at what is timeless and reports transience.  And in fact the percepts of its experience are diverse and transient; on this level of experience, separateness is real.  Our mistake is in taking this for ultimate reality, like the dreamer thinking that nothing is real except his dream.

When we look at unity through the instruments of the mind, we see diversity; when the mind is transcended, we enter a higher mode of knowing – turiya, the fourth state of consciousness – in which duality disappears.  This does not mean, however, that the phenomenal world is an illusion or unreal.  The illusion is the sense of separateness.” 

Ah!  Finally, an articulate understanding of why I have always been annoyed at these modern day dismissive “it’s all an illusion” comments.  I’ve always just said – “argh! it’s not an illusion, it’s the creation.”  But I had never been able to put it into words quite that clearly.  When I read these words I felt a big CLICK in my being, and a big sigh of relief.

peace-wallpaper-backgrounds-desktop-nature-109803That’s it.  The fact that our ultimate reality is one of Unity and Oneness with God and with each other doesn’t mean that the whole of God’s creation is just an illusion and of no consequence.  It’s just the sense of separation that is the illusion – in reality, the world that we live in is a gift of wonder and beauty and it’s something that should be cherished and enjoyed, not dismissed as all an illusion.  That’s why I’ve always felt that shrugging your shoulders and saying “whatever, it’s all an illusion anyway” can be kind of rude.

What’s worse is when someone looks at suffering – one’s own suffering or the suffering of others – and thinks, well, it’s just an illusion.  Sure – maybe on the highest level of reality everything is God, including the evil people who can abuse and torture other human beings – and maybe in the highest level of reality the souls who are enduring this pain will one day return to the Unity of God and all will be good again.  But on this level of the creation, suffering is real and suffering deserves compassion and action.  Whether it’s a person accepting their lot in life because it’s all an illusion anyway or someone shutting their heart down to the suffering of others because it’s not really real – I don’t think that is what is meant by the teachings of maya.

Maya is “the creative power of the Godhead that makes unity appear as the world of innumerable separate things.”  This level of reality that we live in is an expression of the Oneness of God appearing as innumerable people and animals and flowers and millions of wondrous little creations.  We should do everything we can as long as we are here in the body to make it the most loving, compassionate and beautiful expression possible.

Beautiful-Tree-Photography-15I think the whole purpose of all these teachings about Maya is to get us to wake up to the reality of Unity while we are still here in the creation.  And it’s not so that we can understand that while we are in this body nothing is real and we just have to put up with the illusion until we leave our bodies and return to the truth of Oneness Consciousness.  How much more wondrous and beautiful are the mountains and seas and birds of the air when they are experienced as part of a continuous loving Oneness, an illuminated and sparkling manifestation of God Herself!  How much more marvelous is a tree when it is seen with amazement as an extension of my own Self, just like looking at my own hand as a part of me.  How much more beautiful is another person when in their eyes and their face I see the essence of my own soul!

“Here again we can illustrate from physics: the world of ‘name and form’ exists only as a condition of perception; at the subatomic level, separate phenomena dissolve into a flux of energy.  The effect of maya is similar.  The world of the senses is real, but it must be known for what it is: unity appearing as multiplicity.”

So, instead of dismissing this world as illusion, let’s just dismiss the separateness and see the Unity in all of creation so we can wonder at the unbelievably beautiful flux of Divine energy that we are all a part of.

Loving the Mystery of God

10672338_10152726873927731_7471678598811948582_nRecently, when I was writing my post on Mystical Christianity, a friend of mine made a comment about the word “mystical.”  He wondered if I really wanted to go the “mystic path,” because to him that word implies a distance or a separation from God, as if a person on a mystical path will never arrive because God will always be, at least in part, unknown and mysterious.  I can see his point.  To someone who is wanting to clear all limitations from our human mind and to know God with the certainty of experience, I can understand that calling a path mystical can seem somewhat ambiguous.  But for myself, I love the wondrously vague, magically ambiguous and often ecstatically paradoxical mystical nature of God.  And I don’t think that being mystical means that I cannot know God absolutely – I just don’t ever expect that I’ll be able to know God in some way that my mind will be able to grasp and explain with certitude.

A few weeks ago, in a Sunday service at my sweet little St Cyprians Episcopal church, Father Ted said in his sermon:  “I believe certitude is a spiritual danger.  If we claim to know God’s ways without question, we limit God to the shape of our own minds.  As St. Augustine put it 1700 years ago, “If you think you understand [God], [then] it isn’t God.”

I agree with both of them.  Anyone who spouts religious conviction with certitude does not feel like God.  When someone claims they know God and all others will be condemned to an eternity of hell, like the preacherman on the sidewalk last week, it definitely feels like they are speaking from something that is decidedly NOT God.  And it doesn’t even need to be that extreme.  Some people are more subtle in their certitude and just  think that all those Buddhists, Hindus and Jews might be nice people, but it’s a shame, if they haven’t been saved, they aren’t going to Heaven.  Or if the person is a Buddhist they might think Christians, Hindus and Jews mean well and try to be good, but they just don’t yet understand about the nature of Pure Consciousness.  Certitude on any path can manifest itself as spiritual snobbery.

meditationHowever, I don’t think this is what my friend meant when he brought up his concerns with the word “mystical.”  Having certitude in this rigid judgmental kind of way is not at all the kind of certitude that my friend is aiming for.  He is dedicated to truly knowing God and not placing anything between himself and God.  In wanting to end the separation with God, he doesn’t want to place some kind of barrier of mysticality or unknowingness that keeps him from living a life of Oneness with the Divine.

And I agree with him.  I want to merge into God and live in the most sweet delicious closeness with the Divine that I possibly can.  I don’t want to put any limitations on how deeply I can know God.  But in doing that, I don’t want to “limit God to the shape of my own mind” either!  So, instead of not placing the barrier of mysticality between me and God, I want to dive through the mystical and JOIN God on the other side with awe and wonder.

loving godFrom my perspective, the only way for me to know God is actually to embrace God’s mystery.

God is amazing beyond anything I can comprehend.  God’s Love blows my mind – literally.  The only way I can hope to begin to “know” God with my mind is to allow it to be blown over and over again so that it can expand ever wider to embrace the wondrous vast mystery of God.  And then be blown away again.

God’s Love is so vast and so intimate at the same time.  God’s Love is all encompassing and personal, eternal and immediate.  God loves ALL of creation and every single being through all of time, past and future – yet somehow God also loves little me right here and right now in every moment of my tiny life.  God’s Love is both ancient and reverent like the timeless holy Temples and Holy of all Holies.  Yet God’s Love is also fun and modern, silly and giggly, joyful like the deepest belly laugh and bubbling inside of me as a teenage girl crush on God. God’s Love is deeply silent like the most Shivic stillness and profound meditative pure Peace imaginable.  And God’s Love is viscerally personal like the Beloved God of Your Being loving you from the inside and the outside at the same time in a Divine Union of the Self that is explosively ecstatic beyond your dreams.  And anything that I experience as God’s Love one moment, it is deeper and vaster and MORE the next moment.

God’s Love is so huge and yet It enters my heart in such a beautiful tender way that I overflow.  The gratitude and amazement at God’s love is more than my little being can contain and that is why I expand and become bigger.  I overflow.  This is why I cry every time I enter a church or a shrine or a temple.  This is why tears stream from my eyes when I see compassion in action, when I see God’s 117148615Love in the world.  This is why I cry when I chant God’s name.  This is why I cry at every Sunday service.  Everyone at my little church knows this by now.  When I visit other churches I always get very sweet little ladies who come and put a comforting hand on my back and tell me everything is going to be ok – but really I’m not crying because I’m sad.  If only I could somehow share with these sweet gentle women that I’m crying because not only will things be ok, things ARE magnificently gloriously perfect!  All I can ever think to say is simply “I love God” and they nod and smile back at me.  I’m crying because God’s mystery is SO beautiful that it overflows my heart!

The one thing that I can say I DO know with certainty is that God is LOVE. My mind explodes whenever I try to understand the vastness of that love, and when my mind coalesces again so that I can do things like drive and speak and feed myself, it is just a little bit bigger to contain a little bit more love as I go about my life. So, that much I’ve figured out – God is Love.  Therefore, the only way to know God is to love.  I can contemplate God and speak about God and pray to God.  I can meditate and feel God’s Presence and commune with God.  And in all those practices, it is only in the active VERB of LOVING that I can start to know God.

As Father Ted put it: “Jesus never seemed to care very much whether his followers thought alike.  But did they love?  Did they love God with all of their hearts, and souls, and minds?  Did they love each other as they loved themselves?”

In the reading from Matthew’s gospel that day, a lawyer asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  In response Jesus quoted the Shema, the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  To me, this is what Jesus meant and what all the prophets before him meant, and what all teachers on all paths mean when they say to love God.  Loving God is HOW we can come to know God.

God gave us minds for realizations and understandings and insights, but our human minds can never fully know the vastness of God.  God cannot be limited to the shape of our own minds. God is a wonderful mystery.  And beginning to know God is loving the mystery of God.

Love god

The Ad Campaign that Nike Will Never Air

Womens_Nike_Free_TR_Fit_2_Blue_White_Lemon_YellowI’m sorry if the headline was deceptive and you think this is a biting expose of some ad campaign chronicling Nike’s appalling child labor record that got squashed by the powerful corporate giant.  It’s not.  That would be a much more worthy thing to write about.

Unfortunately, this is just my silly post of the week in which I will tell you all about the ad campaign that I came up with for Nike that never existed anywhere outside of my own head.

Remember all those ads that Nike used to do that said “Just Do It?”  Maybe they still run those, I’m not that up on the latest in sports advertising, but they were big back in the day. Well, I had this idea to do a series of ads that instead would say “Just Be It.”

1_thefalls2They would have an athletically toned person putting on their Nike apparel inter-spliced with vibrant scenes of nature.  The person featured in the ad would be filmed getting suited up in all the latest Nike gear in total silence, only hearing the sound of their breath.  It would be dramatic lighting – dark background, stark light shining from an angle creating intriguing shadows.  The person would be seen putting on a Nike training jacket, with an intense concentration on their faces like this is the race of their lives – then an image of a rushing waterfall comes in for a few seconds.  The person puts on some Nike wrist guards as if they are going to do gymnastics or go rock climbing – then the camera switches to an eagle soaring above a vast canyon.  The person then ties their Nike shoe laces – then a heard of buffalo stampede111120-Meditation-296x300s across the screen.  Finally, the person bows their head and silently prays inside as if they are about to take the Olympic stage -then they sit down in lotus position and start meditating.  Again, just a few seconds of each nature scene rushes through the screen – the water, the eagle, the buffalo.  And the screen fades into “Just Be It” and the Nike swoosh.

This was around the time of some Olympics or other, so the Olympics were on TV all the time.  Of course, this was many years before the whole issue of the Olympics, the symbolic world games celebrating cooperation and brotherly love, ironically being held in Sochi with Russia’s human rights violations against the LGBT community.   So, instead of giving me ideas of ways to stand up for my gay or lesbian brothers and sisters, the Olympics gave me more ideas to expand the silly ad campaign.

0f4267fa965c115b00da1147e9762208They could have an ad that looked like Olympic news coverage.  The sports caster would announce, with all the excitement that only sports casters can muster, that we were checking in on the Olympic meditation race.  The camera would pan over to the various meditators from around the world sitting on little platforms in lotus position – the classic Indian Yogi in orange robes, the ascetic from Burma with only a loin cloth and a beard, the Tibetan bald headed monk in scarlet.  Then you’d have the young American newcomer in full out yoga gear, the blond Swede with stubble and casual baggie pants, a Sikh representing the UK in turban and trendy track suit bottoms.  They can throw in the Nike logo wherever necessary.

The clock in the corner of the TV screen would be ticking away: 42hrs, 38min, 7 seconds and counting.  The sports caster would continue his commentary “The team from India is of course strong, as they always are, I think we even saw Swamiji Beyondananda start to levitate a little bit there.  But this year we’ve been surprised by Lars Torngren from the Swedish team.  His race for Oneness consciousness has been nothing short of amazing.  And let’s not forget young Ajeet Suresh Singh from the UK.  He started his career as a British Bhangra rapper, but when in his mid-twenties his thirst for fame and riches turned towards the Olympic meditation team, nothing could stop him – his name doesn’t mean Invincible for nothing.  It will be an interesting race to see who reaches Enlightenment first.  Back to you, Dave.”

Again, the screen fades to “Just Be It.”

I thought these were great ad ideas and I was sure Nike would agree.  I even looked up Nike business offices contact information on line and emailed them asking where might I send an advertising concept?  I was curtly told that Nike only accepts ad ideas that are patented – and as I was not about to go through that whole process, alas, Nike will never air the “Just Be It” campaign…

nike_child_labor_bigJust as well as it’s hard to Just Be It or to put your whole self into Oneness Consciousness if you’re violating human rights and child labor laws in foreign countries.  So, the whole idea is better off here as my silly post.


 

As this silly post touches on some un-silly issues, here are some links:

To help in ending child labor world wide:  Human Rights Watch

To help fight discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters:  Human Rights Campaign

Consciousness as Cure

Voltaire chosen to be happyI know a few days ago I stated in a post that God must have created the laws of physics the way He did for some reason and maybe we shouldn’t try flying just yet or we might end up killing ourselves jumping off a roof before we have actually gained the ability to fly.

But what I believe to be more true is that humanity has co-created the laws of physics with God and that therefore we have created the physical world as we know it with some limitations that are really not necessary but are more of a reflection of our limited human consciousness at the time.  So, we can re-co-create those parts of our world that we would like to change.

I wrote about how of course our collective human world is made up by our collective consciousness, so World Peace is only a logical conclusion.

I am also thinking about the possibilities of healing and how all this applies to our physical bodies.  One immediate thought I’m having is how can a severe thunderstorm warning and barometric pressure change on this certain spot on the planet create a sensation of intense pain in the upper right quadrant of my brain and how can I use my awareness and my consciousness to cure the migraine I am having right now – and how come NaBloPoMo didn’t cover what to do on days when severe pain and nausea prevents coherent blogging?

So, I’m improvising and instead of writing all my thoughts about how we can use limitlessness and our soul power to heal the body and the earth – I will post two inspiring videos that bring me into deeper contemplation about how Consciousness is a cure!

The first video is of Anita Moorjani, an amazing and wise woman who I just discovered.  She had a Near Death Experience after 4 years of battling cancer when she fell into a comma and was given the choice to leave or come back – and knew that her cancer had started as an energy in her first and that if she came back that energy would be gone and so her body would heal quickly – and 5 weeks after her Near Death Experience she left the hospital 100% cancer free!

The second video is an interview with Gregg Braden.  He is talking about the science of prayer and quantum physics and how we create our own reality with our consciousness.  He shares a very powerful story about a hospital in China where 3 people are praying over a woman with a tumor and the tumor shrinks and disappears in a matter of minutes.  (Pardon the embarrassing “Shocking Must Watch!!” sensationalism of the you tube video still).

And with that I leave you and go back to bed with an ice pack on my poor head as I will dream of how Love and Happiness is the secret to health and Consciousness is the fountain of youth.

Rogue Renunciation for Every Day Living

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-1Recently in my religion class we talked about how certain religions believe in asceticism – the act of monks, nuns or sannyasins giving up all worldly roles and connections to solely focus on God – and how other religions don’t believe in renouncing the world but that we can live with God IN the world as “householders.”  In Judeo-Christian terminology that would be “being in the world but not of it.”

To this question of either/or, as in most things where God is concerned, I say Yes!  God is in most cases all-inclusive and of course there are merits in renunciating and there are merits in living in the world as householders.  There is value in both and God is available to us on either path.  I respect both paths immensely.

The important part for me is to live a life that is focused on God, on Love and on making the world a more compassionate place.  In terms of focusing on God, sometimes renunciation can be helpful to free oneself of distractions or attachments, though it’s not necessary and it’s quite possible to focus on God while standing in line to check out at Publix.  In terms of making the world a more compassionate place, that can sometimes be more easily done by living in the world and doing such things as helping to feed the hungry, being kind and helpful to strangers or volunteering for a charity, but it can also be done through prayer, meditation and service away from the world.

DEL_4_169837gHowever, renunciation is not always practical and it isn’t for everyone, and I don’t think it should be.  The joys of “renunciating” our attachments and distractions are available to anyone who simply says YES to the Divine and who wants to identify as a SOUL and to live a life centered in God.

Back when I was an interfaith renunciate of sorts, someone once told me how they admired how I had “given up” so many things for God.  I remember feeling perplexed because I didn’t think of myself as “giving up” anything.  I was getting everything my soul ever wanted!  Love, Peace, Joy, Purpose, Contentment and closeness to God!  I was happy. What was I giving up?  As long as I was identified with my soul, the only thing I was “giving up” was suffering.

Now I am living in the world.  I am working an office job at a local college, I am paying my bills, buying my own groceries and living fully as a householder – yet I think about God every day and I talk to God every chance I get and I still identify myself as a Soul.  The Love, Peace, Joy, Contentment and closeness to God is still right here, available at all times just as soon as I focus on it.  I can be sitting at my desk and feel the presence of the Divine in my life.  No nunnery necessary.

The purpose of “giving up” our worldly desires is just so we can move away from our ego identification, which creates suffering, and learn to live here as souls, which creates happiness.  When we are happy, we can share love and compassion and help make others happy, too.   But how we identify ourselves is an internal process.  It really has very little to do with if you wear an orange robe or a business suit.  It’s quite possible that you become a angrynunnun or a monk and that you still don’t feel closer to God, that you still don’t give up your ego identification or emotional baggage and it doesn’t make you happy (insert memory of angry Catholic school nun here).  The important part to remember when it comes to renunciation is just “where is your focus?”  Who are you identified as?  It is about going from “I am a body, I have a soul” to “I am a soul, I have a body.”  And then eventually to “I love you, God, what can I do to help?” Or as those old monks and nuns would put it “Thy Will Be Done.”

So, my practice of rogue renunciation for every day living consists of this:

tumblr_mg45ovHjAc1qi8mw9o1_500Internally focusing on God as much as I can through out the day

Holding a consciousness of God/Soul/Love as the ground of my being, in the background even as I am focusing on tasks in the world

Identifying myself as a Soul – I Am a Soul, my thoughts, random desires and the noise of the world is just happening, it is not who I Am.

Internally thinking of God as near, thinking of God and Christ and Holy Beings as my best friends (they ARE near, we just need to realize it)

Remembering to choose love and kindness whenever possible (and it is always possible)

Saying yes to any large and small ways to make the world a more compassionate place

helping-others-succeedAs long as I practice these things I can still really dedicate myself to God and my soul  AND I can enjoy the beauty and the fun of this world that God has created for us.  I can dress up for Halloween and go have boo-ritos at Chipotle and even go dancing!  During it all I can internally be in prayer, contemplation, chanting, meditation, communing with or conversing with God or Christ, St Francis, Amma or other Holy Company.  I am in the world, grateful for the beauty and the wonder of the creation – enjoying the gifts of the creation WITH the Creator.  I am a soul, gratefully and fully living this incarnation.

And even though I am now a householder, my internal identification has not changed.  I am a soul.  I am in love with God.

Find Your Soul (Mate)

soulmateLet me start with a warning:  you are about to read relationship advice from a woman whose last date was in 1998.  I have spent the last 16 years more or less as an interfaith nun… well, the last 15 years and then 1 year as a recovering interfaith nun.

However, I see a lot of marketing materials for how to find “true love,” and I’d like to think that in all my years focusing on God I’ve learned a little something about true love.

It’s all over the place:  workshops with easy steps to “find the one,” sponsored facebook posts promising secrets on “finding your twin flame.”  There are books and blogs and all kinds of things you can buy to help you “attract your soul mate.”  Even scarier, there are sites promising “tricks to make him fall in love with you.”  Is loving you something you want to force on someone using some kind of manipulation or programming?  Really?

I don’t know if I believe in soul mates or not.  I do and I don’t.  What seems more likely to me is that we have soul families – groups of souls that we are closely related to on the family tree of life that we meet again and again and when we do, we resonate.  Like one soul might be my husband in one lifetime, my sister in another and my mother the next time around.  Sometimes we might be best friends, then we’ll come back as gay lovers.  So, even if I don’t think we have just one soul mate, I read Richard Bach’s “One” just like all the other spiritual young girls of my day and I waited for lightening to strike.

Then I fell in love with God – I guess lightning struck.

53fdab8bbe56b29abea204d21You see, when I see all these romantic comedies, romantic dramas, romantic thrillers and romantic horror movies – how practically every movie, tv show, novel or salsa recipe has some sort of emphasis on a romantic relationship, I can’t help but think that this incessant focus on finding our other half is really coming from our yearning for union with the Self.  When I see people selling romance-scented-crystal-candle-dream-guy-catchers, promising to help end the lonely empty feeling inside, it just feels like it’s a misplaced yearning for God.

I give you an example from my own life.  I think it is safe to say that I am a Bhakti – I love loving God, I have a very devotional nature.  Well, I didn’t grow up in India where I could channel this part of myself down at the local Krishna temple.  I was in the 8th grade and I was living in Sweden.  Sweden is not an overly devotional place.  So, instead of a gopi, I became what was known as a Duranie – a somewhat deranged fan of the musical group synth_phDuran Duran.  I had a jacket covered in 52 Duran Duran pins.  I had so many posters of Duran Duran (especially John Taylor, the cutest one!) on my walls that I ran out of space and started putting them on my ceiling.  For their birthdays I hand sewed them personalized teddy bears with each of their names embroidered on them and sent them off to their fan club.  I had so much devotion in my being and I had nothing else to aim it at – so I displaced my devotion and idolatry onto these poor unsuspecting Englishmen.

Now that I have pictures of Jesus in every room, now that my house is filled with devotions for Amma, Ramakrishna, Mother Theresa and St Francis, I understand where this devotional urge in me was coming from.  I just didn’t know I could love God, yet.  I didn’t find that out until years later.

the-wedding-industry-has-been-drawn-into-the-debate-over-gay-marriageSo, when I see all these ads and articles about “finding your soul mate,” I can’t help feeling that it is our misdirected longing to find God.  Not that we can’t also find a beautiful loving partner in life, a soul from our soul family who gets us and supports us, who gives us love and affection, safety, trust and intimacy, fun and laughter, tears and comfort, understanding and compassion and all the most valuable things we can hope for from our human connections.  It’s just that I think if we put ALL our needs and ALL our fulfillment in the hands of this one person, if we think this one person is going to COMPLETE us, we set both of us up for heartache.

So, since I do not have vast dating experience to speak from, I can say that in my observation of the nature of my own heart, that love that we are seeking is about finding our own SOUL, not a soul mate.  It’s not about finding that special someone who is easy going, who loves to laugh and have fun and also likes to dine out.  I believe that to truly experience the love of a soul mate – you first have to experience your own soul – to see the Self in your beloved, you must first know the Self in your own heart.  And to think that some other person can do that for us is frankly lazy and irresponsible.

19meditate you-go-girlIt is up to US to complete our own selves – to know our own hearts and to awaken our own souls and to fill our own beings with so much LOVE that we want to explode and share it with the world – and then we can share it with that special someone.  I think we will all be happier if we stop looking to our latest date or to the latest and greatest rock star or celebrity to fill us up.  I think we will all have healthier and more fulfilling human relationships once we recognize that Love Itself is what completes us.  Then we can, as a whole and complete person, share our journey with another happy and fulfilled human being and live happily ever after.

So, that is what I think is behind all the hoopla about soul mates, Duran Duran, Elvis and the Beatles.  God is everyone’s soul mate and rock star.

 

Gratitude ~ Worth More than Money

piggy bankSometimes when I am eagerly awaiting my next pay check because some unexpected expenses ate up my spending money or even when I’m trying to shuffle things around so that my automatic bills don’t bounce, I try to shift my thinking so I don’t get caught in the trap of lack consciousness and making myself unhappy.

Whenever I think to myself “ugh, I don’t have any money,” I immediately shift to the gratitude of “I have things that are worth more than money.  I have food.  I have a great home.  I have nice clothes and plenty of shoes without holes in them.  I have gas in my tank.”

These are all the things that I would use the money to buy anyway, and they are much much more useful than money.  Food I can eat.  Clothes I can wear.  Gas makes my car go round and round.  My home keeps me safe and warm.

Money in and of itself is not really that useful – it’s paper.  You can’t eat it, can’t wear it.  I guess if you burned it it could keep you warm for a few seconds but it doesn’t even make a sustainable fire like wood does.  1388196756000-AP-Fast-Food-Protests

And I’m not saying that money is bad or that it’s not good to have a little buffer in the bank (in order to buy more useful things when needed).  I actually think more people should make more money and it’s way past time to raise the minimum wage, so not so many people need to go through the feeling of eagerly waiting for their next pay check or, even when they do get paid, not having enough money to buy the useful things they need like food.  And I’m not proposing that a simple shift in attitude will help those living in poverty to create a new reality for themselves as rich entrepreneurs – we all need to come together to shift our collective consciousness of inequality and selfishness to change the cruelty of poverty that we just accept as a part of how it is.  But that is another topic for another post.

What I’m saying here is just a little trick I use to stay in a feeling of abundance and gratitude even when my bank account is close to empty.  There are so many things in life that are worth much more than money – and here I’m only talking about food and clothing and useful items.  Don’t even get me started on Love, Peace, Consciousness and Bliss!  Those we all have equal access to for free and there is an endlessly abundant supply!

So, before getting too stressed out or unhappy about poor cash flow, remember that money is only useful for the things it buys – so whenever I am a little strapped for cash, in order to stay in abundance consciousness, I just go into gratitude for all the very useful things that I have in abundance – most of all, happiness.

The Yearning that is Behind Everything

narayan3Last weekend I went to the Community Satsang at our local yoga studio. My friend TeZa, aka Lord Flea, led us in two chants, the second one was Om Hare Bhagavate Satchidananda.

Bhagavan, or as Teza’s sweet husband Carter calls him, our buddy Billy Bob Bhagavan, is The Lord God, the most eternal name for God, the huge ancient God before any religion, any incarnation, any expression of God.  I love chanting to Bhagavan. I always experience The Lord God as a primordial infinitely profound and glorious presence.

TeZa explained how Satchidananda means Sat – Truth of Being, Chid – Consciousness and Ananda – Bliss, and how this is what all humans long for. This is why we chant, why we meditate – to know this Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.

So, we began the chant and my mind wandered in and out as it usually does. I would chant, then think of something I wanted to post on my blog (NaBloPoMo has me thinking a little bit too much about such things). But as I allowed the chant to do its work on me I started feeling this ancient Presence of Bhagavan and I started feeling this underlying yearning for Satchidananda.

My entire focus went inward and upward (I even forgot about my blog for a few moments there). I could feel this reunion with Bhagavan, the presence of The Lord God of my Being. And I could feel my heart aching, yearning and breaking in this core longing to know God, to know the Truth of my Being, to dwell in this Consciousness, to live in this Bliss. My heart was burning and I could feel the flame focusing me inward, upward, deeper into this presence of God.

Chicago Architecture City Skyscrapers Upward View

In that moment of yearning, I remembered how years ago I had gone into a big city for a meeting with some lawyers on behalf of a spiritual group. We were doing the worldly paperwork needed for us to do what we wanted to do from our Love of the Divine, part of the necessary steps to follow. As we were leaving the attorneys’ office and getting back into our car, all of a sudden I could feel everything in the whole city as a manifestation for our yearning for God – not just us, but all of humanity. All the buildings, all the roads, the parks, the cars – I could feel how every human invention, every human endeavor was actually coming from our longing to return to God, even if we don’t know it.  The motivating energy behind humanity, in all our efforts, all our drive to be successful, to grow and learn, to study science and engineering, to be bigger and better – that underlying motivation has always been to find our way back Home to union and wholeness. And as I was feeling this, I could feel that same energy IN all the things we have created. The skyscrapers were reaching up towards Heaven, our rocket ships and submarines are both striving to reach God as quickly as possible, our laws and systems and governments are all attempts at getting closer to God. I looked at the building we had parked next to and every single faded yellow brick was screaming for God.

In some strange way – I could even feel that all the terrible things that humans have done, all the hurtfulness and cruelty, was also coming from some kind of yearning for God.  It was just twisted in the wrong direction, like a child that wants to be held and when it perceives that the Mother is not there throws a tantrum kicking and screaming, throwing toys and tearing the house down, not realizing that the Mother is always there holding us, we just can’t feel it for all our kicking and screaming.

inside-an-ancient-temple-jason-irishIn remembering that moment during the chant, feeling the deep yearning for Satchidananda, for Baghavante, I started feeling all around us an inner Temple, an ancient eternal holy place where God is in fact holding us.  And I could feel how we have never left God’s Temple.  We have never fallen, never been kicked out of Paradise, never been separated, not really.  In truth, all of our human existence is happening inside the Temple of God.  God loves us so much, we could never leave God’s care, we could never be outside of God’s home for us in Her heart.  Everything we have ever done has happened inside this ancient eternal Temple.  It is a Temple small enough to fit inside each human heart and a Temple large enough to contain all of humanity.  We are always and eternally inside this Temple that contains our lives and all that we are.

As I felt this ancient and loving living Temple around me, my heart broke even more with gratitude.  I cried deeply from the comfort that God has never ever left us out in the cold, that we have always been warm and safe inside this ancient Temple of Bhagavan.  Just as we have been yearning for God through all the ages, through our evolution and progress and history, God has been answering that yearning in every moment along the way – we just need to stop screaming, rest in the love of God and open to feel it.

ancient-indian-temples9

How can I be Pro-Unity without being Anti-Anti-Unity?

preacher-manOutside the library, on the narrow part of the sidewalk that is officially public property, the preacher man is back.  Security can’t throw him off campus for trespassing unless he steps off the sidewalk, so now that he knows the rules, he has been coming for several days to proclaim loudly, at a booming volume, for 4 or 5 hours at a time, that all the college students, and probably most of the faculty and staff as well, are in league with Satan and are going to hell.

He rants and rails against the sinners, angrily proclaiming Christ’s unconditional love for them as long as they accept Jesus and get saved.  Wait… isn’t that a condition?  And the anger doesn’t feel like love.  This is confusing.

I wonder if he has ever converted one single solitary person to Christianity using these methods.  Usually what ends up happening is students gather around, a few outspoken ones start debating him, some clever students bring out a bible to quote back to this man.  One student made a sign that says “You’re doing it wrong.  Signed, God.”

A pastor friend of mine from the church just across the street from me, caddy corner to the screaming man, has written a few blog entries entreating these yelling Christians to stop hurting the Christian faith with their antics.  It’s not helping anyone know Christ and it gives other more gentle or loving Christians a bad name. You could even say this preacher man is driving people away from Christ.

jesus_cat-hugSometimes I imagine going out there and giving this angry man a hug.  Telling him that Jesus must have been a very loving and compassionate man, joyful, uplifting and inspiring to be around – not angry and yelling about fear and damnation.  But then I reconsider – I don’t really want to go out and oppose this man so set in his ways that he can yell for hours at full throttle, surrounded by students who are merely entertained.  I don’t really want to try to convert this man who is so set on converting me.  So, I simply send him some quiet love and pray that he will one day open his heart to love all of humanity like Christ does and allow the love of God to truly touch his soul.

It’s funny, because as I was walking back from lunch, before this man returned to his sidewalk soapbox, I was thinking about how hard it is to be Pro-Unity without being Anti anything. Then I read the post from my friend Meyla about how there is no right or wrong, and then the yelling started.

So, if there is no right or wrong – how do I hold that position to be the truth?  How do I tell people who think there IS right and wrong that they are… wrong?

How do I hold the Unity of All Religions, that there is only ONE God and God is loving us through all religions, and that ALL people are included in that Unity, when this man’s religion has him screaming at the top of his lungs that his way is the ONLY way and everyone else is going to hell.  How do I include his religion in my Unity?

We have talked about this in our Unity & Peace meetings.   We are FOR Peace, but that doesn’t mean we are ANTI military.  As long as we live in a society that is choosing to create war and armed conflict, the people who are serving in our military deserve only the deepest compassion, care and support.  I can’t imagine what they go through.  So, we are collecting items for a local veterans club to make into care packages for our troops for the holidays – sending our love and prayers for peace to those who need it most.

unityBut I find this whole concept of Unity and Oneness hard to navigate in this world of polarities.  And I’m not quite sure what is the “right” way to go about it all (see what I mean?  For there to be a right way, there has to be a wrong way, right?).

I notice that several times in my writing I am responding to something that I disagree with – like today with the screaming man on the sidewalk, or Monday with the karma, or last week with the crazy parts of the bible that are simply unjust, or a few weeks ago when the meditation instructor said “the mind isn’t designed to be in harmony with the soul.”  It’s not that I’m trying to make anyone wrong, I’m not wanting to exclude anyone from the love, peace and happiness I am writing about, I’m just trying to classify or describe what I’m feeling.  As my old English professor might have called it: compare and contrast.  But how do I compare and contrast without making “the other” less than or wrong or in fact, “other”?  Isn’t the whole point that I’m trying to make with my comparison and contrast that we are all One?  It all gets a bit confusing.

How do I speak up for what feels true to me, how do I stand up to injustice and oppression while staying in Unity Consciousness?  How do I oppose the violence of poverty or racism, sexism and homophobia without having an “enemy?”  How do I promote a sense of Unity and understanding between all cultures, religions and peoples without playing into the polarity, without saying – you’re wrong Mr. Preacherman, we are not going to hell and Gandhi and Ghaffar Khan and the Dalai Lama are closer to Christ than you feel to me to be, even though they are not even Christians.

DALAI LAMASo, this is my conundrum.  How can I be pro-Unity without judging those who are anti-unity as stupid or ignorant or wrong?? How can I be pro-Unity without being anti-anti-Unity?  I really don’t know.  Maybe I need to keep looking to Gandhi and Ghaffar Khan and the Dalai Lama as they all seemed to have grasped this much better than I do.

Ah – now I remember.  Amma has already given me the answer to this circular dilemma – Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.  Whenever I am caught up in a spiral spiritual question that the dual mind cannot quite comprehend, just come back to is this consciousness.  Thank you.  May All Beings in All the Worlds Be Peaceful and Happy!