Loving God in the Concreteness of the Human Person

3aa3535dd52efe120124589a0502db51Hello blog.  I’ve missed you!  I have been away on an inner journey that just felt a bit too internal to run around on the world wide web, but it is nice to be back.

I have reemerged into the outside world in the form of a student!  In my mid-40’s, I am currently at University, getting a Masters degree in Religions in Peace and Conflict.

How did I find myself in this place on my path, you wonder?  Well, I guess you could say that I realized that for me, “spirituality” and yearning to be One with Everything needs to have a practical component.  make-me-one-with-everything-12rnczBeing One with Everything necessitates some form of social action on behalf of all the other parts of my Self that I am One with.  It’s not about my awakening, it’s not about living nearer to God just for my own sake – doesn’t living nearer to God, who loves every single being in this world, entail taking action to embody that love?

Last July I went to see the radiant Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as Amma, when she came to Atlanta, Georgia.  She is an Indian world teacher, who travels the globe every year and who is known as the “hugging saint” – as she hugs thousands of people a day.  She also has extensive charities in India as well as Africa and around the world, including schools, hospitals, orphanages, toilet building programs and disaster relief.

amma-2This was my second pilgrimage to see Amma (in addition to my Facebook visitation).  I had seen her 15 years before in San Ramon, California.  I was very excited.  The first time I saw her I had gone into a very expanded state of consciousness.  I was sitting meditating in her presence, there were bajhans being played, the Indian harmonium droning, the tabla driving the music, Sanskrit chanting and Amma singing in a sort of ecstasy.  All of a sudden I entered into a consciousness beyond time and space –  and I was aware of the metric tempo of the music moving through what seemed to be time – and yet, I was in the timelessness behind time, the eternal NOW through which time moves.  When I went outside into the dry northern California hillside, I looked out over the valley and saw a gnarled tree standing on the opposite hill and it felt exactly like I was looking at my own hand – there was no space, no separation, everything was right HERE.  Even when I looked up at the moon it felt like it was right HERE in the exact same HERE as I was.

So, going to see Amma again, I thought I must have some expansive mystical experience again.  I entered the big hall with around 4000 other spiritual hopefuls.  I was prayerful and yearning, I was hopeful in a way where I was expecting to receive something for myself, some experience, some mystical moment that would revitalize me and heal me.  I sat there in Amma’s presence, I meditated, I chanted, I went up and received my hug, I helped serve food in the cafeteria alongside people from all over the world, I bought a rudraksha bead that had been worn by Amma herself, and late one night I even got to sit next to Amma and hand her the Prasad, or blessed hershey’s kisses she gave out to everyone after their hug.

1535012_10152081986113302_5640157212523432627_nYet, I didn’t have some expansive cosmic experience.  I didn’t go beyond time and space, I didn’t remember a past life as an Egyptian priestess or a Mayan elder, I didn’t expand outside my body to feel a mile tall, I didn’t cry and weep and feel the presence of Krishna or Christ.  I didn’t have any one big moment.  But slowly and deeply over the 3 days, like it was just something that quietly melted into me, I came to the realization that the only important thing, really, is simply to be more loving.  Without me even noticing, something changed inside of me and I stopped yearning for big experiences, I stopped listening to the little selfish voice inside of me that wants a shiny new spiritual experience to prove how very special I am – and I realized that all I really want is to be a good person.  The only point to me seeing a tree as if it were my own hand is to do something for that tree, do something for that child, that woman, that man, that “other” who is really my Self. 

It reminded me of a story that I heard James Finley tell in an audio recording from the Center for Action and Contemplation called Returning to Essentials, Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy – a story that haunted me for days after I heard it:

“Martin Buber, the Jewish scholar and mystic, one morning had a mystical experience and then went to his office in the university still in the aura of this mystical experience.  A student came to talk to him and he half-listened to the student and then the student went up to his dorm room and committed suicide.  And he left a suicide note and said he had tried to talk to Martin Buber but he could tell he was preoccupied.  So he killed himself.  And Martin Buber realized that he had been preoccupied with his ecstasy, and he said ‘I have given up on the God that delivers me from the incarnate preciousness of life, I recognize God in the concreteness of the human person.’


Martin Buber being preoccupied with his own spiritual ecstasy kept him from being present with a human soul in suffering who came to him for help.  And the consequence couldn’t have been more drastic or more painful.  How could that be the point of spiritual awakening?

3043325-poster-p-1-these-amazing-photos-were-taken-by-young-refugees-from-syriaI have given up my fascination with spiritual experiences.  I am instead yearning to be closer to God in the concreteness of the human person. I know far too many people who run around after spiritualness, claiming to be doing it in service to God, while missing the chance to serve God in the people who are right in front of them – and I was myself included in this category for far too many years.  I no longer want to simply spread good vibes.  Not that spreading good vibes is not a good thing, in fact, perhaps it’s even important.  But I think we are missing the point of good vibes if we stop there.  The point of having a good vibration is to manifest that vibration into LOVING God in the concreteness of the human person, LOVING God in the concreteness of the animals, the trees, the waters and the atmosphere, LOVING God in the concreteness of the creation.

So, I have returned to school to learn more practical ways to turn my love for God and my love for my neighbor into real live social justice and peace building action – not just in smiling or giving daisies to strangers, but in using the UN, international NGO’s, politics, humanitarian action and public education to help make God’s love real in this world.

That is the result of my big life altering experience seeing Amma for the second time: the slow quiet melting into a knowingness that the only point to any of us having any expansive, mystical experience is to expand our capacity to love.


Please check out the Outer Action page and share in the comments more ideas and ways to making LOVING a reality!

Changing our Consciousness for Chocolate

choc-backI love chocolate, of course.  We all do.  Today just happens to be National Chocolate Day, so it’s obvious that chocolate is appreciated by many.  Maybe it’s because it boosts serotonin levels, somehow causing my brain to produce more of the “happy” neuro-chemical.   Maybe it’s because in my body’s inherent wisdom, I wisely crave the cocoa bean’s antioxidant rich micro-nutrients (though if you’ve ever tasted 100% raw cocoa, you know that’s not true!  yuck).  More likely, it’s because it’s combined with so much sugar and cocoa fat that it stimulates both the yin and the yang ends of the macrobiotic food cravings spectrum.  But whatever the reason, one of life’s little pleasures is enjoying a few bites of a good chocolate bar every once in a while (OK, a lot of bites and on a regular basis).

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

But the problem is, it’s NOT a simple pleasure.  Nothing is simple anymore.  It turns out that many of the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying their cocoa from Western African cocoa growers who use child slave labor to harvest and process their crops!  Not only that, but when this all came out in 2001, companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars plead ignorance and resisted regulatory laws calling for mandatory “slave free” labeling and pledged to regulate themselves to put an end to this atrocity in their supply chain and to end child slave labor by 2005.  As the linked article states:  “It turned out, they didn’t do much.  It’s 2015 and there are now more child slaves than there were in 2001.  51% more, in fact.  There are now 1.4 million children carrying dark_side_of_chocolate2back-breaking sacks of cacao, having their bodies whipped and beaten and crushing themselves from dawn to dusk for no pay.”

My heart breaks.  I cannot abide by this, I cannot support companies who callously ignore the suffering of innocent people for profit.  I cannot stand to accept a world where this injustice occurs!

So – I did my research and found a list of Slave Free Chocolate companies and I downloaded my Chocolate List app from the Food Empowerment Project.  I went on line and found End Slavery Now and Walk Free and signed ALL their petitions and shared them on Facebook. OK.  Crisis averted.  I can once again enjoy my massive amounts of chocolate slave-free style!

The problem is, this happens with practically EVERYTHING.

This video from Follow the Frog is one of the funniest social action videos I have ever seen.  But it accurately captures what I feel like sometimes.

all-natural-cotton-padsLike the protagonist in this video, I, too, recycle, reduce, reuse, buy organic, eat vegan, think globally and act locally.  I even use non-disposable menstrual pads and Thinx period panties, ok?  I menstruate consciously!

IMG_5534_b_largeSometimes I just feel like it shouldn’t be so hard to be a good person in this world!  It shouldn’t be so complicated to buy food or goods without being a part of atrocities perpetuated on fellow humans or innocent voiceless animals.  It shouldn’t be a full time job to make sure that my daily actions aren’t contributing to environmental catastrophes or unspeakable labor crimes.

I can’t buy that $5 t-shirt at Wal-Mart without supporting both unfair wages in the U.S. and abusive child-labor in Bangladesh.  So, I buy a $32 t-shirt from Sudara made by women rescued from sex slavery.

The only fast-food joint I can go to is Chipotle without contributing to massive factory farm animal cruelty and the toxification of low-income food choices.  It’s not even safe to buy “Cage-Free” eggs, because the factory farms simply removed the metal cages, Perdue-chickensand instead cram the living birds into barns so full that the chickens still can’t spread their wings, go outside or live any semblance of a normal chicken life.  And even “Certified Organic” eggs only guarantee each hen a space of 18 square inches and kill those chicks unfortunate enough to be hatched male in a grinder, so I just gave up and decided to go vegan.

I can’t buy craft supplies from Hobby Lobby because their owners are imposing their personal religious beliefs about birth control onto their thousands of female employees who are grown-ass-women and should be able to make their own decisions about their own lady parts with their own lady brains.  I can’t even donate money to charitable organizations supposedly set up to help people without checking them on something like The Charity Navigator or I might support something as benign sounding as the Children’s Charity Fund where only 9.1% of their donations actually help the children!

So, I end up having one app for slave-free chocolate, another app for Humane Eating, the Good Guide app for checking product ethical scores and a whole list of Top Ten Socially Responsible apps.  If 13 apps aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 83.  But I just can’t use 96 apps every time I make a purchase!  It’s enough to drive you crazy.  But what’s the alternative?  Apathy is not an option.  Endless senseless suffering is not acceptable.

Truly, the only way out of this insanity is to change our society as a whole – to change our collective consciousness!  And before you say I’m a dreamer – it IS possible!

Farmer-working-on-the-fieldRecently, I spent 10 days in my native Sweden.  It was lovely.  For many reasons.  One being that I felt like I could go about my life without trying SO HARD to make conscious decisions that wouldn’t destroy the environment or harm people and animals around the world.

I could drink the tap water knowing that it didn’t contain anything toxic, and it even tasted delicious!  I didn’t have to refill my BPA free 5 gallon jugs with filtered water to combat the American plastic water bottle frenzy. I didn’t have to bring my recyclables home from work to be sure they don’t end up in a landfill.  Sweden recycles EVERYTHING and less than 1% of it’s trash ends up in landfills – and this is how the whole system is set up, it’s not done by counter-culture activists. plastic-bottles Sweden enacted a Farm Animal Bill of Rights in 1988 and every animal in the country has a legal right to be outside each day.  The agencies that regulate food and consumer products actually work to protect people’s health – in Sweden and most European countries, there are nearly 1400 chemicals that are not allowed in face creams for health and safety standards while the U.S. has banned only eleven.

And yes, Sweden still has societal issues, prejudices and growing discrimination towards refugees.  But overall, I felt like I could relax!  I felt like I was surrounded by a general consciousness of care, compassion and common sense!  And I felt like I wouldn’t unknowingly contribute to cruelty and greed if I didn’t check my 96 apps.  And like Bernie says, we can learn from how other societies like Sweden and Denmark have implemented societal change.

So, we can do the same in the US.  We can do the same worldwide!  It’s about LOVE.  It’s about recognizing that we as humans mostly WANT to do good.  Most people are good people.  And we can all start making the world a more peaceful place one person at a time and we can insist that our social and economic systems reflect the basic human values that any normal person would attest to.  We can change our “business as usual” to be more like socially advanced countries and not accept anything less.  We can educate each other and love one another.

josiah-love-lyraAt our core, humanity is GOOD and we are meant to love our neighbors and to fill this world with millions of examples of God’s Love because we are made in God’s image – we have LOVE at the center of our beings.

This morning, on National Chocolate Day, I read yesterday’s Richard Rohr Daily Meditation on Martin Luther King, Jr. where he wrote:

The problem is not first of all “the flesh” or personal sin, but systemic evil and structural, disguised violence. As King writes: “It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. Those of us who struggle against racial injustice must come to see that the basic tension is not between races. . . . The tension is at bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. . . . At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. . . .” Like Gandhi, King was hopeful because he saw God’s love as the foundation of existence…. We must never forget that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness, that man is not totally depraved; to put it in theological terms, the image of God is never totally gone.

I-love-humanity-photo-by-shankboneSo, as I adjust my chocolate habit to conform with the love in my heart that truly cares for children in Africa I have never met – I remind myself that changing our consciousness is the radical solution that gets to the root of the problem.  And instead of despairing or tearing my hair out, I can fill my heart with love and have my hair, and every other part of me, express compassion!  I can have my emotional impact and my actions reflect love.  Empathy is our natural state – it’s in our neurons and our DNA.  Peace is possible.   Evil is like pee in the ocean of good.  And Love always wins!


The Spiritual Politics of Peace and Guns

635793191437715269-AP-APTOPIX-OREGON-SCHOOL-SHOOTING-76403036Last week when we had yet another tragic mass shooting, as my heart was breaking once more I wanted to write something about this, I wanted to do more than posting quotes and stats about gun violence on Facebook, but I hesitated because I thought – this is a spiritual blog, I write about mystical experiences or soul realizations, I don’t want to be “political” or write about something that is “controversial” or that “polarizes” people, I’m not one to write vitriol against the NRA or engage in heated debates on reinterpretations of the 2nd amendment.

Then I remembered what my friend the college religion professor Dr. Timothy Johnson said in preparing for our International Day of Peace panel discussion:  The Franciscan way of creating Peace means that you have to be in the middle of conflict.  You can’t run and hide from it, you can’t cloister yourself away from the world and pray “make me an instrument of Thy Peace.”  Francis wanted to be in the midst of the poor and the suffering, he found God’s Peace in the midst of the violence of poverty and war.  6a00d8341c3e3953ef00e5503a8a1c8834-500wiIn Richard Rohr’s book ‘Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi‘, he tells how Francis made 3 trips to the Middle East during his life time (before trains or planes or automobiles) and historians always assumed that he was trying to convert the Sultan to Christianity, but documents now show that he actually went there to urge the Christians to stop killing their Muslim brothers and sisters.  He walked himself into the middle of the conflict to be a voice for Peace.  To be an instrument of God’s Peace, one has to place oneself in the middle of the muck of it – the pain, the confusion, the controversy, the anger, the violence – and answer it all with Peace.  The prayer goes “where there is hatred, let me sew love.”

In reality – everything is spiritual.  And everything is political.  There is no separation.  We are all a part of the living organism that is our collective consciousness, our world society and our Mother Earth.  Who we vote for is not separate from how our earth’s resources are used, how people all around the world are treated or how our society evolves into either more peace or more violence – and the politics of peace and guns is no exception.

120703074240-norden-voting-rights-story-topOne of my dearest closest friends once told me that she didn’t vote because the whole system is so corrupt that she didn’t want to take part in it.  But we ARE a part of it – every one of us is a part of the sociopolitical system we live in just by being alive.  We participate in it every day with our every thought and action.  A non-vote IS a vote.  A non-vote is passively condoning the corruption instead of actively voting FOR something better.  As Martin Luther King put it during the Civil Rights movement: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” We might not be monks choosing between hiding away in cloisters or marching into the Crusades to be a voice for peace, but we can’t hide away in our “spirituality” or our “counter-culture” and say we don’t want to participate – we have to DO something.

As President Obama said in his speech after the mass shooting in Oregon last week: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”  If you haven’t already, you can see the full speech at the bottom of this page.  And along with President Obama, I ask:  What will it take for us to take responsibility for change?  Even the mass shooting of innocent little elementary school children at Sandy Hook hasn’t moved us as a society to make change.

Yesterday, even People magazine, usually dedicated to celebrity splits and the top ten fashion fails, published an editor’s letter urging readers to contact US lawmakers about gun control and posted the contact information for ALL 535 voting members of the House and Senate.  So, please visit their site and find your law makers and contact them to make sure they hear your voice.  11930746_671165486317614_1036681546252576810_oOur elected officials work “for the people,” so let People magazine be a reminder to us all of that very important fact.

You see, we CAN do something about this.  Humanity can evolve.  Through our internal consciousness and our outward acts of conscience, we DO change the world.  And the politics of peace and guns are an inherent part of our social responsibility.

This is reiterated by Ram Dass, who unlike his fellow Harvard acid tripping colleague Timothy Leary, didn’t urge us to “drop out.”

“One of the systems we’re part of, of course, is the political system. We may wish we weren’t part of it often, but we are… The political system is a system in which you are a member whether you like it or not. You’re part of a government, and your not voting is voting. So there’s no way out. You can’t say, “I’m not going to have anything to do with politics.” You can say it, but you’ve got to watch where you’re saying it from. You may say, “I’m not going to get involved with politics because I am so busy with something else that I think is my dominant theme, and I’ll vote, but I’m not going to put my time into campaigning for candidates and issues, because my energies are best used here.” That’s fine. If you’ve thought it through and can look somebody in the eye and say it.  If you’re saying, “I’m not having anything to do with politics because it’s too dirty and because I don’t approve of it,” forget it – you are abdicating your responsibility to society. It’s as simple as that.

We’re at an interesting moment within the shift of collective consciousness, specifically around the way in which we’re integrating the changes in power structures… How is the shift in collective consciousness going to evolve and what part do you play?”

– Ram Dass, October, 1995

So, there is a lot that a caring and common sense society can do about gun violence – in our culture, our consciousness AND our politics.

11990497_1026449340710264_6581593137798789056_nThis is seen in any number of other practical ways in our society.  When children died by being trapped in an old discarded refrigerator, we enacted laws to make the manufacturing and disposal of refrigerators safer – a there was no National Refrigeration Association lobbying to block these safety measures.  In order to combat the death and injury caused by auto accidents we enacted seat belt laws and in order to drive a car, one must have a license proving competency, one must have current registration, and we get fines and even jail time for breaking our social covenant to keep each other safe on the road.  Why can we not do the same exact thing for guns?

In Australia, after a gunman opened fire on a crowd of tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people in 1996, the government enacted bipartisan gun control laws.  Banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and putting stricter controls on hand guns and rifles.  In the decade before the

People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country.  There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.  And not only has there not been mass shootings – gun related homicides and gun suicides have decreased dramatically, as well, without a corresponding rise in other methods of killing self or other. And San Francisco, who led the way on gay marriage long before it was supported by the vast majority of Americans, is leading the way now with common-sense gun regulations that could one day also be the law of our entire nation.

There are numerous studies documenting how gun control laws work – and yet the NRA and the American gun culture won’t even entertain the most common sense of gun controls – such as requiring background checks nationwide or simply following the same guidelines at gun shows.  States have no problem enacting 72 hour wait periods and mandatory vaginal probes for women seeking an abortion – but somehow asking for a wait period on a gun sale is an invasion of our God-given rights?

President Obama, People magazine and the host of every news show on TV are becoming sad and disgusted at how frequently they have to roll out the same “we are in shock and mourning” routine.  And we’re not even shocked anymore.  In one data graphic compilation, it shows that between Jan 1, 2013 and Oct 1, 2015, there was a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident – nearly every day.  There were 994 mass shootings in 1004 days in this country.  Clearly, something is very wrong and something needs to be done.  Now.

reagan-assault-weapons-gun-safetyAnd the thing that really makes NO SENSE whatsoever about the total gridlock and unwillingness to even LOOK at any viable solutions is that no one is even suggesting that we remove the right to own guns altogether or that homeowners can’t buy a handgun to protect themselves against intruders (even though said gun is statistically more likely to harm a member of the family itself).  But even a ban on the purchase of assault rifles is considered an unacceptable step on the imaginary “slippery slope” to dictatorship.  When will the massive amount of people dying to gun violence become unacceptable?  The 33,636 people who died from gun homicides and suicides in just the year 2013 are REAL, not imaginary.

In President Obama’s speech, he challenged the media to compare deaths from gun violence with deaths from terrorism in the US – to show the completely illogical, nonsensical failure to even look at gun reform.  “We spent over a trillion dollars, and passed countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so,” Obama said. “And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”

This graph shows only 2004-20013

This graph shows only 2004-20013

According to numbers from the CDC and State Department, between 2001 and 2013, there were 3,030 American Citizens killed by acts of terrorism worldwide (and this includes those who died at the Twin Towers) and 406,496 deaths from gun violence just on American soil.  With those numbers, how could the Congress pass a ban on the CDC even doing research on gun violence?  Yes – the US government is not only NOT enacting gun reform – it is cementing our ignorance into law – literally making the pursuit of knowledge about gun deaths by federal agencies illegal.   Isn’t it time we start making sense?

Love_PeaceThis is not a time to not participate in politics.  If you truly believe in Oneness Consciousness, then take action for change in our society.  This is a time to bring REAL PEACE to the front line of American gun culture and to change our consciousness and our politics – and if the sitting senators and representatives won’t do it – it’s time to change our politicians.  It’s time to vote.  It’s time to be a voice.  It’s time to BE the Peace.  It’s time to be engaged in the spiritual politics of peace and guns.


WATCH John Oliver’s Daily Show segment on Australia’s gun law reform.

And as my vote of confidence in the new host of the Daily Show – here is a video of Trevor Noah’s take on the hipocracy of being Pro-Life and Anti-Gun-Control:

Further reading and practice:

President Obama’s speech:

The World Peace Scale

ScalesThanks to the UN designated International Day of Peace in September, and grassroots organizing from over 1400 gatherings around the world, we just celebrated a wonderful World Peace Day.  Here in St. Augustine we gathered on the campus of Flagler College to sing, meditate, dance, pray, eat, drink and be merrily peaceful together.  As we were putting the event together, trying to rally support for such a lofty concept as World Peace, it helped me to clarify that World Peace is not a black-and-white all-or-nothing issue.  World Peace is a scale.

World Peace often seems like an unattainable and unrealistic dream and this belief often stops people from giving the values of Peace serious consideration.  Most people just blow it off with a shrug and a “it will never happen.”  Most people, if asked, would say World Peace is illogical and impossible.  And while I believe that World Peace is not only possible, but inevitable – I also believe that the  point to World Peace does not lie in some far off Utopian future where we all hold hands and pet tigers all day long.  The point of World Peace lies right here in our every day world right now.

So, how does a big concept like World Peace actually interconnect with not just our International relations or what is going on in the Middle East, but with what is going on in our local community, our schools, our corporations and our families? Well, World Peace is on a scale – there is a constant fluctuation of a sum total of more peace or less peace in the world in every moment. This is how a far-off dream such as World Peace becomes a part of the daily choices we each make in our personal lives.  How much Peace there exists in the world at this moment changes with every peace meditation, with every incident of domestic abuse, with every act of forgiveness, with every outburst of anger, with every evening prayer circle, with every racist or homophobic punching, with every gentle act of kindness.

being kindWorld Peace is a part of our daily interactions with others and the world around us, whether we think of it or not.  How much violence or suffering we have in the world versus how much peace and happiness is entirely dependent on our every day actions.  Am I being kind to the homeless man I pass on the street?  Am I punching people in bars or vandalizing property in my neighborhood?  Am I smiling at the waitress or the cashier and giving them respect as a human being?  Am I helping the family down the street who had a fire and are in need of clothes and food?  Am I voting for people and policies that are compassionate and creating more kindness or peace in the world?  Am I voting with my purchasing power to support companies that only care about profit at the expense of child labor or environmental disasters or am I voting for companies who care about our collective future?

free-range-chickenIf we spend the extra 50 cents and buy cage-free eggs, we are contributing to a world of less suffering where chickens can run around and peck at things instead of being cooped up in a tiny cage unable to turn around for her entire life in order to save us 50 cents on eggs.  All the collective vibrations of senseless suffering and pain add up on the side of the scale that is violence in this world – and humans are not alone here, all life matters.  So, by the simple every day act of eating vegetarian or just by buying organic chicken or grass-fed beef, we are adding vibrations of happiness and green hills to the side of the scale that is World Peace.

So, you see, World Peace is not some far off distant impossible dream.  It’s like those high school motivational posters would tee4c6490ccbcc3e4a45dc5b71638df921ll you – shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.  So, strive for World Peace every day and even if you’re not around for when all violence ceases, all people live in freedom, unity and justice and we all hug tigers – you’ll be part of creating a kinder more peaceful society right now.

World Peace is a very doable scale that is changing in every moment.  The choices we make every day contribute to how much peace we have in the world as a whole.  The amount of Peace that exists right now is totally up to me!  It’s up to each one of us – we all contribute one way or another just by being alive.  And 574666_031614a92398e7feb827a37d490b5bc5_largethat takes World Peace from being a big unattainable concept to being a very practical part of every day life.


frontThe Unity & Peace Day of Peace in St Augustine was meant to give people the awareness of their daily impact on this scale of Peace and to show all the options for Inner and Outer Peace that are available to all every day to contribute more peace and compassion to our world.

Buy an Inner Peace Equals World Peace T-shirt to help support Unity & Peace to keep spreading Peace Awareness throughout the year.

Below is the article about our Peace Day that was featured on the front page of the St Augustine Record on Monday, Sept 21st.  A BIG thank you to Jenna Carpenter for coming out to cover the peace news – thereby adding more peace to the scale!  Also including some pictures from the event.  Enjoy!

St. Augustine celebrates International Day of Peace
By Jenna Carpenter

DSC05778Whether you’re trying to attain inner peace or working toward gaining it for the world, finding peace can be a struggle that can lead you on multiple paths.

“Peace is not a state, it is a process,” said Timothy Johnson, a religion professor at Flagler College. “There’s not a point where everything will be at peace; there is only the constant struggle to bring peace.”

12006488_10153681430570844_8420447728587516285_oThe key to ending that struggle, Johnson said, is to open up conversations with others about their culture and belief system.

Johnson, along with other local scholars and activists, spoke Sunday on the subject of peace, and the many facets through which it is found.

The panel was part of a peace day festival hosted by Unity & Peace St. Augustine to celebrate the International Day of Peace, which is today.

Peace Day 2015 U&P Officers

Unity & Peace

“World peace often seems like an unattainable dream, and this belief stops people from giving the values of peace serious consideration,” said Shanti Shivaya, president of Unity & Peace. “So we are hoping to help people make the connection between peace and the choices we make every day; how we behave in our communities, corporations and families, to help us all create a culture of peace for our society.”

The festival has been going on in St. Johns County for about eight years, but Sunday was the first time it was brought to Flagler College, she said. It boasted 18 community groups and five student clubs that provided people with ways to finding peace.


Yoga with Now & Zen Yoga

Some, like the St. Augustine Avatar Group, dealt with finding inner peace through mind quieting, meditation and prayer. And others, like Compassionate St. Augustine, focused on finding world peace by spreading word of local outreach programs.

“It’s not just about meditation, it’s also about taking actions to make the world a better place,” Shivaya said.


Devotional Chants from Chinmaya Mission

But the two are intertwined, and world peace can only be accomplished through finding inner peace, she said.

“The state of the world is the state of each individual in the world combined,” she said. “So anyone who connects with themselves and finds inner peace, their actions create a society that is more peaceful.”

Peace Day 2015 Unity & PeaceThe journey to inner peace starts with people coming to terms with conflict, said Angelenia Semegon, a psychology professor at Flagler College.

Semegon, another speaker on Sunday’s peace panel, said society doesn’t know how to handle conflict, which hinders world peace.

“We basically just avoid it instead of trying to find a way to resolve conflict and be comfortable with it, she said.”


Dances of Universal Peace

A way to resolve conflict, she said, is to respect one another. “We have to learn to express our feelings with honesty and vulnerability instead of blame. And we have to be able to hear others when they express their needs and fears” she said.

“Finding peace from within is to communicate in a nonviolent way.”

Sunday’s festival ended with participants forming a human peace sign and singing “Imagine” by John Lennon.

Peace Day 2015 Imagine 3



Y’All Means ALL or Universal Salvation

hrc12937bu_2The HRC came out with a new T-shirt design that I love:  “Y’all means All.”

This T-shirt is meant to underscore the equal rights that are inherently owed to ALL human beings, and perhaps point out that ironically, states that are more prone to using the “Y’all” are most in need of remembering that God loves ALL of his children.  So, for all those reasons I love this T-shirt.  But I also love it because it reminds me of Universal Salvation.

I’ve been contemplating Universal Salvation a lot lately (so much so that I want to get the words “Universal Salvation” as my next tattoo).  Universal Salvation means that God has already “saved” everyone – that all souls will in the end return to God and as Rob Bell so daringly proclaimed (and I wrote about in a previous post) – Love Wins!

1024px-Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_VirginMorwenna Ludlow, in her book, describes Gregory of Nyssa’s two arguments for universal salvation as: “a fundamental belief in the impermanence of evil in the face of God’s love and a conviction that God’s plan for humanity is intended to be fulfilled in every single human being.”  In other words – Y’all means ALL.

Of course God loves all her children and would never leave any soul languishing in torment and separation.  Of course God will “save” us all and bring us all into Her Eternal Love.  Of course happiness is inevitable for all living things.  Of course all beings in all the worlds will be happy and at peace.  (I’m thinking I’ll get the Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu as part of the tattoo as well – they mean the same thing).

And this is God’s victory alone – it has nothing to do with how great we are or how moral we are or how righteous we are – and it does not depend upon us converting the rest of the world to our particular religion (whichever one that is).  Universal Salvation is accomplished completely through God’s Grace.

graceI’ve been listening to Richard Rohr, my favorite God-crush, on my straight and narrow drives through the Florida flatlands to see my sisters and he has been talking about the completely unmerited quality of God’s Grace and of Universal Salvation.  Grace is just a gift from God that we receive constantly through no merit of our own, but simply from God’s love.  Yet, so often in religions and spiritual circles the notion of Grace becomes bizarrely confused with morality, karma or deservability.

I have been taught a lot about “invoking Grace,” and “pulling down Grace” and making ourselves “irresistible to God” so God would bless us with more Grace.  Nevermind the thought that someone could actually be “resistible” to God, that whole way of speaking somehow implies that Grace is something that is earned.  I’ve also been told that my Grace had run out, I didn’t deserve any more Grace due to my bad karma or lack of surrender, but again, that is being spoken from the premise that Grace is given only to the deserving.  7EF5243744C143FE98D711C3351CF5C7.ashxBut the very definition of Grace is that is it given to all with no restrictions as to merit or effort or worth.  Grace means that we all have an indestructible, inherent deservability – God loves us all unconditionally and gives us all unconditional Grace out of that love. Y’all means ALL.

In reality, all our spiritual practices or prayers or meditations are aimed not at making us more worthy of Grace or more worthy of Salvation, but of opening us to receive the Grace and the Universal Salvation that has already been given, or rather opening us to perceive the Grace of Universal Salvation that is always HERE.

10352890_1057779390900703_999636798334927694_nAs Richard Rohr puts it in his book What the Mystics Know: “We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God.  What’s absent is awareness.”  That is a truer way to teach about the Grace and Presence of God – what is missing is not our effort or morality or worthiness – the only missing ingredient in our experience of the Grace of Salvation is our awareness. 

I already wrote about this experience, but it is a moment I think about often:  Years ago I had this experience of looking up at the night sky and seeing, right along with the stars and the moon and the whole universe, Grace showering down upon the entire earth.  At the time I perceived it as “showering down upon” because that is what I had been taught – that we pull Grace down by our effort and prayers.  But now I realize that maybe what I was seeing in that moment was just the Grace that exists everywhere at all times as the Presence of God that holds every single human, animal, plant and mineral, the state of immutable perfection that is God as the created cosmos.

So, all we have to “do” is stop doing – stop doing anger or guilt, stop doing judgment or self-judgment, stop doing hatred or self-hatred, stop doing fear and hell-fire.  Once we stop doing, we naturally reside in Grace.  Once we let go of our egoic sense of unworthiness and effort, we naturally fall into God’s unconditional love.

Once we become aware of our oneness with the human and the divine and remember that Y’all means ALL, we can be fully present in awareness and realize our Universal Salvation.

Please explore Richard Rohr’s Many Wonderful Books and Audios or other authors explored in this post:

The Radical Oneness of Equality

onenessI wrote a post about the Radical Equality of Oneness – about how if we want to Awaken and live in Oneness, we cannot judge others and we cannot refer to the greater parts of humanity as “the unawakened masses.”  If we are to truly Awaken into Oneness, we must have the ability and the humility to see ourselves in all of humanity, to see ourselves as part of a greater whole and to love that wholeness as our Self.

Now with the Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage in June and all the talk of equal rights for all, I realize that there is also a Radical Oneness in Equality. Sometimes, as a card carrying member and facebook follower of the Human Rights Campaign, from time to time I see t-shirts, tote bags and facebook emblems where you can choose between “Lesbian for Equal Rights” or “Straight Ally for Equal Rights” or Transgender for Equal Rights” etc. and while I can see the value of showing that ALL kinds of people support Equal Rights for LGBTQ people, I sometimes wish there was a “Who Cares What I Am, I’m a Human Being for Equal Rights.” And that is because saying that I’m a Straight Ally makes it seem that I’m fighting for equal rights for someone other than myself, but I feel that equal rights for ALL people is MY issue.

Equal rights for gays and lesbians, for transgender, bi-sexual and queer human beings affect ME, even though God happened to make me heterosexual.  It affects all of us.  We ARE one, whether we live in the realization of that truth or not, we ARE – and other people living under oppression and prejudice, other people living with harassment and even violence affects ME.  My quality of life is affected by the LGBTQ community not being treated as equal human beings.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

I can’t pin point a specific moment in my day when I am refused services, denied benefits or sneered upon.  I am free to marry and adopt and share my life with whoever I may fall in love with in any state I may go to.  I don’t have any experience in my life of being bullied or beaten with baseball bats.  But all I can say is that my life is unquestionably effected.  My whole being is effected.  I feel the pain of all the gay and lesbian beings in the world living in oppression, prejudice and derision.  The fact that 40% of transgender human beings attempt suicide because of the pain they feel  in a society that refuses to accept them for who they are hurts my heart, even though I was born with both female identity and female parts.  The fact that so many Americans still do not have the right to marry who they love eats away at me – the injustice, the wrongness weighs on my conscience as a member of this human race.  The fact that a gay or lesbian citizen of Brunei could actually be stoned to death for who they are makes me want to weep.  It is the same with the deaths of so many black men at the hands of police brutality, the same with the pain of the disenfranchised in Baltimore and Ferguson and in so many places on earth – it has an undeniable, actual impact on my life and my being.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  That is not just a theoretical idea or a poetic way of saying injustice anywhere is wrong.  Because, it is not just a theoretical Oneness – we live in an ACTUAL Oneness.  And the pain and injustice suffered by the LGBTQ community or any other persecuted or oppressed people creates a very real and actual pain in my being.  It’s not theoretical – it’s visceral.  I can feel it in the cells of my body, I can feel it in my human heart, I can feel it in my soul in a way that is tangible.  I know we are taught that the outer world is real and our inner world is not real – but that is not true.  The inner world exists within every aspect our outer reality and it is in some ways more real – and in this very real way injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  The pain of injustice in any human heart is a pain in every human heart, even those of the persecutors.

jesus-faithThis is why I am so passionate about equality.  This is why I feel so strongly that God loves ALL her children and that to legalize discrimination of gays and lesbians in the name of God is an atrocity!  Jesus would have wept at this hatefulness committed in His name.  I know in my heart of hearts that whatever quotes from whatever scriptures anyone spouts – God loves ALL her children (lobsters and all).  God is Love, and if we are made in God’s image, we must also learn love and we must stop promulgating hate in the name of God.

Once again, God conspired with Father Ted to bring me the perfectly relevant sermon for my internal process – showing how even in the bible there is the argument for inclusion (of course).

Father Ted’s sermon was about the reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we had just heard, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian was reading Jewish scripture, even though as a eunuch, a castrated male, Jewish purity laws would have prevented him from being accepted into the Jewish community.  Yet Philip, who had preached the Good News of Jesus the Christ to Samaritans and other gentiles, accepted the Ethiopian eunuch and baptized him, despite his different nationality, the different color of his skin and his different sexuality.

As Father Ted put it:

“It is a story about the inclusion of someone, who by many of the standards of the day, should have been excluded.  This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is relevant for today’s Church… This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is also a story relevant to public events this past week.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the validity of same-sex marriages, and Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics as a male, announced that he is transgender.

I believe the most important question before us is not about sexuality. It is about witness. It is about the question “What witness will we make?”  Our witness is the public affirmation of our faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach.  This is our opportunity to be what we say we are…

Our witness is to the unconditional love of God.  There are no gate-keepers at the doors of this church.  As we proclaim in our Baptismal Covenant “we respect the dignity of every human being,” and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God.

The story of the Ethiopian eunuch is about including someone who would otherwise be excluded.  The Church and our society are struggling with that same issue today.  We, in this particular community of faith, proclaim God’s unconditional love, and God’s unconditional love includes everyone and excludes no one.”

10423916_956135247753224_6797323417058110768_nThen I read a blog post from my favorite Bishop (yes, I have a favorite Bishop.  Don’t you?), Bishop John Shelby Spong.  He wrote a wonderful article about how there can be no compromise on the moral issue of ending homophobia in all its forms. He compared it to the moral issue of slavery in the 1800’s.  Before the Civil War, the US government had tried very diligently to compromise on the issue of slavery, trying to find ways to allow the Southern states to maintain the brutal institution while the Northern states recognized the dignity of every human being.  But there is no way to compromise on such issues where our very humanity is on the line.  And even though people used the bible to justify slavery and even though a diminishing minority clung to their false righteousness, there came a time where the injustice of slavery could no longer be accepted in our collective consciousness.

It is the same with homophobia, it is the same with all civil rights.  As we evolve in human consciousness, as our collective consciousness grows in love, we can no longer accept the hatefulness of the past.  I cannot accept it!  Hate anywhere is a threat to Love everywhere.  Pain and persecution anywhere, is pain and persecution not just in some theoretical “everywhere” – but HERE, in ME.  I am a straight ally and I am a human being, and Equality is MY issue.  I am working to heal the pain in my own heart, to end the suffering in my own life.  I am working from the Radical Oneness of Equality.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside of the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate their support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

There were so many sections of Bishop Spong’s article that I wanted to include that I could have just posted his post and said “exactly!”, so I decided to put them all at the bottom of my post.  Below are my favorite parts, or you can read the full article.

In the slavery debate, those who shared the new consciousness were quite clear. Human beings cannot be held in bondage. This new consciousness challenged those definitions, which suggested that some people did not qualify as human beings; that some people were primitive, childlike, created to be subservient, and were, therefore, fit for nothing other than manual labor. Within that definition, slavery was deemed to be morally acceptable.

I thought about this period of history as I read of my own church, the Anglican Communion, seeking a way, “for the sake of unity,” to accommodate divergent opinions on the issue of homosexuality. The Church’s leadership is acting as if negotiation is possible in this conflict, yet the obvious fact is that homosexuality, like slavery, is a moral issue and thus not amenable to compromise.

The old definition asserts that homosexuality is a choice that evil, perverted or subhuman people make. It cannot, therefore, be tolerated… The emerging new consciousness, on the other hand, rejects every part of that definition. It asserts that homosexual people are neither morally depraved nor mentally sick, since one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; but something to which one awakens. It is like the dawning realization that one is male or female, part of a particular race or nation or even right or left-handed. A just and moral society cannot be erected on a premise that some human beings are subhuman or perverted, not on the basis of their doing but on the basis of their being. It matters not what any source of ancient wisdom has previously declared. The Bible, for example, was once quoted to support slavery, to oppose science and to prevent women from achieving equality. On every one of those issues the Bible was quite simply wrong. To quote it now to uphold the evil of homophobia is no less wrong.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy simply takes the old definition and labors first to defang it and then to perfume it. They call homosexuality “unnatural,” or “a deviation,” urging that it be suppressed wherever possible and controlled where not possible. Homosexuality, however, has now been incontrovertibly identified as present in the world of higher mammals. It also appears to be a stable and unchanging percentage of the human race at all times and in all places. These data suggest that homosexuality is not unnatural at all but is a minority aspect of the created order that appears quite normally in all higher forms of life.

The leaders of the mainline churches pretend that some compromise is possible. They seek to protect unity by attempting to civilize the debate until a new consensus arrives. They count “the unity of the church” as a worthy goal even as that forced unity violates that Institution’s integrity. Can you imagine that part of the Church that said no to slavery being asked to apologize for upsetting the consciences of the slaveholders? Can you imagine Church leaders saying to slaveholders, “we will not challenge the morality of your decisions about slaves because we would rather keep our faith community united?” Can you imagine coddling slaveholders so that they will not separate themselves in schism from the Church? Can anyone imagine any slave-holding church claiming to be the body of Christ?

Yet if you substitute the word homosexuality for the word slavery, that is what is present today in the main line churches. If homosexuality is a given not a chosen way of life, the continued violation of gay and lesbian people, in order to preserve unity with the Church’s homophobic constituency, is simply immoral.  Not to bear corporate witness to those who still languish in the dying definitions of the past is to turn one’s back on the very meaning of the Christ.

If the essence of our Christ is summed up in words that John’s Gospel attributes to him, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” then the choice is clear. Homophobia diminishes life; it does not make it more abundant. It must be ended; it cannot be tolerated even by making it kinder and gentler.

To the leaders of the Churches today I say: “Stop playing ecclesiastical games. Compromising truth never serves the cause of unity…. There is no room for waffling on this moral imperative. The idea that you will allow politicians to advocate placing discrimination against homosexual persons into the Constitution of this country, while your voices are either in agreement or remain deafeningly silent, is an embarrassment. If it takes a split in the body of Christ to make this generation understand that homosexuality, like slavery, is a non-debatable, moral issue, then for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, you must be willing to pay that price.”


HRC_Red-LogoPlease join HRC to support the Radical Oneness of Equality!

Giving up Religion for Easter

Easter-825x510This Easter, I almost gave up religion altogether.

Don’t worry, I don’t mean giving up God or Christ or Krishna, I don’t mean giving up my passion for Love, Peace and Consciousness.  I’m not forgetting about Jesus and putting all my eggs in the Easter Bunny basket.  It’s just that this Easter the whole concept of organized religion somehow struck me as very very odd.

Palm Sunday morning, I walked up to my little St Cyprians church as usual.  Because it was Palm Sunday, the congregation was gathered outside the church steps, all holding palm leaves as we listened to the beginning proclamations from the Book of Common Prayer.  As I walked up to join all the sweet people standing in the sun, all of a sudden the whole premise of religion struck me as very odd.  At the same time that I love all religions and I love attending all types of services, pujas, meditations and prayers, I also think they are all kind of weird.

Palm SundayWhat a strange thing that 2000 years after Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem over the palm leaves put down before him all these random people all over the world should be standing outside churches on a Sunday morning holding palm leaves. I know that rituals have meaning, and I actually LOVE rituals – whether it’s smearing ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday or putting sandalwood paste on my third eye for Shivaratri, I love physical things that remind me about embodying the divine.  It’s just that it’s important to remember that all the physical things don’t really matter – it’s all an inside job.  And for some reason that morning, as I stood there outside the little church that I love so much, I was struck with the oddness of it all – if my heart is connected with Christ and I am loving God as I live and breath and move about my life, then what is the point of all of this?

Turns out, Father Ted’s sermon was the perfect answer for my feeling of strangeness at the whole concept of organized religion.  (Now, how does God do that?  Did He inspire those thoughts and feelings in me because He knew what Father Ted had written in his sermon?  Or when I had that sense of oddness, did He go back in time to earlier in the week and whisper in Father Ted’s ear?)

After the reading of the passion story from Mark’s gospel, Father Ted began to talk about Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  As Father Ted put it, “From triumphal entry to his death by crucifixion in just a few short verses. From riding a donkey into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, to being put to death for speaking truth to power at the end of the week.”

Jesus had been preaching for years in Galilee and the areas surrounding Jerusalem, telling people that the Kingdom of God was inside of them, teaching people how to connect directly to God, showing them God’s love and mercy – and proclaiming that there is no burden of sin between us and God, and no need for any intervention or sacrifice by a priest or anyone else on our behalf.

In Holy Week, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the very center of both religious authority and secular Roman rule – and he went into the Temple and threw out the money changers and those selling doves for sacrifice.  He was challenging the whole system of both political oppression and organized religion that had been established – that people needed to exchange the impure roman coin for temple currency to buy doves or pigeons for the priests to sacrifice at the altar in order for them to attain atonement with God.  Jesus was telling us that we already have AT-ONE-MENT with God.  We don’t need organized religion to mend our broken relationship with God – to God, it was never broken.  We don’t need any rules or rituals or hierarchical system of priests and middle men.  And this challenge to both the religious and secular authorities is what led to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  And he knew it would.  This was the cause Jesus was willing to die for.

good-friday-copySo, sitting in the pew of my adorable little church, I am struck with the extreme irony that the establishment of religion has turned Jesus’s very teachings inside out!  Instead of realizing the absolute truth of our original innocence and our direct connection with God, the teaching that Jesus gave up his life for, the church has turned his very death into the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf – even though Jesus himself taught that we didn’t NEED a sacrifice, God already loves us completely.

Palm Sunday evening I attended my second service of the day – this time online with the Collective, the wonderful little mis-fit faith community in DeLand.  Pastor Ben, dressed in T-shirt and jeans, reading his sermon from his iPad screen in-between drumming in the band, talked to us about the parable of the Third Mile.

ArtBook__039_039__TheSermonOnTheMount____The parable Ben told goes like this:  Back in Roman Galilee there was a law that if a Roman soldier commanded a citizen to carry his pack, they must carry it for one mile.  One day, a small group of disciples heard Jesus preaching and he said “The law requires that you carry a pack for one mile, but I say carry it freely for two.”  The disciples were deeply impressed by this and after a year has passed, this custom of carrying the pack for two miles had become a “new law” among the disciples and the leaders among them would often quote this teaching of Jesus and the need to carry the pack for two miles as a sign of one’s faith and commitment to God.  Jesus heard about this new custom and came back to the community saying “Dear brothers and sisters, you are faithful and honest, but I have come to you with a second message, for you failed to understand the first.  Your law says that you must carry a pack for two miles.  My law says, carry it for three.”

What I got from the sermon is this:  if there is a religious rule that a person should carry the pack for one mile, then Jesus taught that we should go the extra mile, because it’s not just about following the rules, it’s about what the rules are trying to show us about giving, loving and our relationship with God.  But when the “extra mile” group of people, following Jesus teaching, re-set the rule to  two miles instead of one, Jesus said again, no, it’s about that extra mile, so go 3 miles.  But it’s not really about how many miles.  The problem is, however many miles you add on, it becomes exactly the same thing: a rule to follow to be a good Christian, a good Muslim, a good Hindu or a good something or other.

“What if instead of offering his followers an ethical system to follow, Jesus was inviting them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws?”

If we just create a new religion in the name of Jesus and set up similar rules or roll calls that must be followed in order to get to heaven and a new order of priests and go-betweens, we’re not really following the teachings of Christ.  If we absorb the way of love which transcends systems that Jesus showed us back into a system of rules, requirements and safe ethical formulas, we’re missing the point.  It doesn’t matter how many miles the rule says you should run, it’s not about counting the miles or following the rules, it’s about transcending the rules and running towards God with all your heart.

“In the end, our wholeness and wellness, our goodness and flourishing, are not to be found in systems of accepted minimums, or in the predictable systems that arise to challenge those minimum requirements – not in religions or in our best attempts at better religions.”

So in the pew and again online at the Collective, I got the message – it’s not about the rules, it’s not about organized religion, it’s about connecting directly with God.  As Ben put it, it’s about “Love that transcends ethics.”  In all these churches and mosques and temples, in all these rituals and Palm Sunday ceremonies, the purpose of it all is to live closer to God, to live AT-ONE-MENT with God.

love-shoesIt’s the spirit of the law that matters, not the letter of the law.  And living the spirit of the law is an entirely inward process between you and God.  It has nothing to do with any organized religion or consecrated creed.  No amount of empty rule following or proper religious conduct can make any difference.  If a person runs 5 miles or half a mile doesn’t matter in the least. We could run an infinite number of miles or just stand still – as long as we do it with absolute sincerity.  It’s what is happening inside that matters.  It’s about the state of our hearts.  It’s about our direct connection to God.

That is the cause that Jesus died for!  And the ironic thing is, by Christianity creating this complicated system of rules and have to’s, in setting up an organized religion with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, it is recreating the same system that Jesus spoke out against.  We see this again and again, and it is up to us to keep bringing back the Love that transcends religion, just like Martin Luther speaking up about the Catholic church selling indulgences or Martin Luther King Jr. speaking up against injustice.

So, to truly follow Christ, we can’t just create a new religion, we have to let go of religion, let go of the outer show of faith and live our inner experience of faith.  And not just when we are dressed in our Sunday best, but in our every day moments.

In Father Ted’s Easter Sunday sermon, he also spoke to this direct connection of God and the Resurrected Christ not in organized religious ceremony – but inside our ordinary lives.

“After all the “Alleluias” this morning we will leave this sanctuary and go out into our ordinary lives.  But that is exactly where we will meet the risen Jesus if we will only open our eyes, and hearts, and souls to the world around us.  In our liturgy this morning we will greet each other in the “Peace of The Lord.”  This is a greeting of the Christ that is alive in each one of us greeting the Christ in the other.  It is a symbolic and liturgical action.  But when we walk out the door into the world we are called to see the risen Jesus in each and every other person we encounter.”

I have often grappled with the check box called “Spiritual but not religious” because I’ve at times felt that I am “Spiritual and ALL religious” or an “Everything.”   I love all religions and all ways of loving God, so I haven’t wanted to say that I am no religion – until now.  In the essential truth, the truth that Jesus died for, it is not about a new religion, no religion or all religions – it’s just about connecting with God.


Further reading…

The Last Week
by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan depicts Jesus giving up his life to protest power without justice and to condemn the rich who lack concern for the poor. In this vein, at the end of the week Jesus marches up Calvary, offering himself as a model for others to do the same when they are confronted by similar issues. Informed, challenged, and inspired, we not only meet the historical Jesus, but meet a new Jesus who engages us and invites us to follow him.

Peter Rollins examines traditional religious notions from a revolutionary and refreshingly original perspective. At the heart of his message is a life lived through profound love.

My One Foray Into Athletics

soccer-ballI am trying to figure out how to clearly articulate the inherent duality in non-duality discourse, so in the meantime, I give you silliness.

Now, this is truly a silly post.  This post is completely worthy of the category.  There is no hidden meaning, no social justice component, no spiritual significance, no reference to renunciation or creative expression or meditation Olympics.

This is a post about my one foray into intramural sports, or any sport at all for that matter.  I have only had one foray.

38801_151041021578234_7750609_nWhen I was in high school, I was part of the artsy theater and poetry crowd.  You know, the ones who wear all black and listen to “alternative” music.  You may reference, on the right, a picture of me and my friends against a brick wall, very Breakfast Club-esque. I may not be wearing all black in this picture, but I can assure you, I spent almost a whole year in all black.  (Later in life I balanced this out by wearing all white for a year, but that is another less silly story).

I was so all-black-alternative-artsy-poetry-girl in fact that when I participated in the Junior Miss pageant (I did what??), my “talent” was reading a piece of my own angsty poetry while dressed all in black holding a dead rose in one hand!  Yes – a dead rose.  You can imagine how that compared to the other contestants’ opera arias, baton twirling and gymnastic routines.

It’s fair to say that none of my friends were at all athletic.  The closest we came to athletics is when one of my dearest friends, a flamboyant boy named Jeffrey Fountain, would chase the Christian Athlete’s Association jocks down the breezeway, pretending that he wanted to ask them out just for fun.  He relished in who he was and made no attempt to stay in the closet.  Instead, he used to bring flowers to the football players, as if the jocks were stars in a Broadway musical instead of quarterbacks and wide receivers.

1914471_1222121920278_1785469_nSome of the guys in our circle of friends had a punk band (of course) named The Scrammies.  Despite not being athletic, we had invented our very own sport called Scram-ball – kind of like hacky sack but using a beach ball and your head.  But since there were no Scram-ball tournaments, we thought it would be rather funny if our pale and skinny lot played soccer.  So, one year we decided to enter the high school’s intramural soccer league!

In honor of our punk rock roots, we named the team the Scrammies.  For our team uniforms we wore white and green spray painted t-shirts with “Scrammies” stenciled on the back and cut-off jeans.  We showed up at every game we were assigned to and lost every one.  We cheered each other on, laughed and had lots of fun, given that we didn’t really take the whole thing very seriously.  Other more serious teams found this very annoying.

The sad fact is that in the whole intramural tournament we only scored one single goal – and it was against the faculty!

Soccer-Ball-HD-Images-WallpapersIt might surprise you to know that I am the one who scored this goal.  I was surprised as well, because it was a complete and total accident.  The ball hit me in the head and then went off in a trajectory straight into the goal.  While my head hurt and I was a bit stunned, my team mates cheered and laughed and gave me high fives.  It was all very exciting.

I am tempted to conclude this story drawing some inference about living life fully or believing in miracles or gaining compassion and understanding for athletes and people unlike ourselves by walking a mile in their shoes – even if I did wear my black high-top Converse with all the peace signs scribbled on the soles.  However, I promised to make this a purely silly post, and so I will.

Go Scrammies Forever!!


Love is Love is Love

Recently, on that ambivalent modern phenomenon called Facebook, I came across this video about the Universality of Love!  It is my new favorite thing!  Seeing people hugging and kissing, dancing and pranaming on an x-ray screen, it’s plain to see that Love is Love.

Love has no gender
Love has no disability
Love has no age
Love has no race
Love has no species
Love has no religion

Love is love is love.  Love is a wave and the ocean.  Love is compassion and empathy and Oneness.  Love is Radical Equality – equal down to the very root of Being – more than equal, ONE, just not the same.  Love is timeless, eternal, constant and immutable.  Love is Perfect.  Love is messy.  Love is yearning, striving, struggling, growing and awakening.  Love Itself completes us.  Love is physical, metaphysical, quantum physical.  Love is the entanglement of particles everywhere – molecules, electrons, amoebas and the space they are all contained within.  Love is the very fabric of the Universe.  Love is life.  Love contains all that is not Love.  Love is God.  God is Love.  Love is a Mystery.

praying handsAs much as I love all the manifestations of God – all the mantras and chants, all the prayers and communion, all the images and idols, all the psalms and bhajans, all the wisdom or all traditions, it really just comes down to Love.  We can all have different religions, we can honor all religions or no religion, but we all have Universal Love.  Love IS – the rest is commentary.

And at the root of all those rituals and spiritual practices, it is all really about getting to the Love that is at the core of every person, every creature and every cell in this universe.  We can access this Love by honoring the love in all families, couples and peoples, without judgments about the particulars.  We can access this Love by serving the love in all humans and in caring for and protecting the love in our furry friends.  We can access this Love by nurturing our Earth and the creation we live in.  We can access this Love through prayer, meditation or sadhana.  We can access this Love through gratitude, awe and prostration.

In essence, we not only access this Love, but we BECOME this Love through LOVING.

Love is Love is Love.  Love the Love.  Be the Love.

Hari Om!  Namaste.  Amen.



Please share and spread the love around!

LHNL_ProfilePicFor more support in ending bias, even subtle bias inside your own mind, visit LoveHasNoLabels.com

To support the equality of Love and help counterbalance all the politicians trying to “protect the sanctity of marriage” ( while proving how very much they love the institution by being married themselves 4 or 5 times!) – please visit the Human Rights Campaign.

Miracles Come in Many Forms

toothacheThis morning as I was sitting at church, my tooth started hurting really bad out of nowhere.  I’m scheduled for a root canal on Wednesday, and even though I hadn’t drunk hot liquid, I hadn’t bit down on something hard, I hadn’t gotten one of those chewy gooey mentos stuck on my teeth, all of a sudden it just started aching!  It was so bad I couldn’t sing along with the hymns or speak along with the prayers.  Ouch.

The exchange of Peace in our church is more involved than in most.  We don’t simply turn to those on each side of us, shake their hands saying “Peace of the Lord” and then sit right back down.  We mill about for many minutes, we walk up and down the aisles greeting everyone in the church, alternating “Peace be with you,” “Peace of the Lord” and plain old “God’s Peace.”  Hugs are happening, smiles stretch from ear to ear and the whole congregation sounds like a festive Peace Party until finally Father Ted raises his booming voice to call us back to our seats like unruly school children.

advil_10398_4_(big)_So – during the exchange of Peace I knew I’d have enough time to run up to the vestry, where I know there is a tiny little bathroom, and sip some water from the sink to swallow some Advil from my purse, hoping it would calm down the death pangs of my dying dental root.  I made it back with time to spare and still got to hug and greet and smile at several of my fellow congregants.

After the Peace, we go right into the Holy Communion, so Father Ted lead our focus into the sharing of bread and wine, which I always use as an inner meditation to become One with the Body of Christ – literally communing with my Beloved.  As I went up and knelt at the altar and received the body of Christ and the cup of salvation I put my whole focus on my love for Christ, feeling Him with me, holding me, entering into my heart and my whole self.  As I sat back down again I noticed my tooth ache was completely gone.

miracle healing 1It’s a miracle, I thought!  The communion healed my dental pain!  Becoming One with Christ took away my suffering.  Then immediately I reminded myself that I had taken the Advil 10 or 15 minutes ago, so it was probably just the IbuProfen kicking in, not a miracle.  But wait a minute – why isn’t that a miracle?

I think it’s pretty amazing that a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug that anyone can buy over the counter at any pharmacy, grocery store or airport news stand can take away intense tooth pain that throbs through half my face and keeps me from being able to speak – and does so in a matter of minutes!   Why is that NOT considered miraculous?  Why would it only be a miracle if a light had descended from the arched ceiling of the church, levitated me up into the air and a booming voice from the sky said “Shanti, be healed of this dental pain!”

Ibuprofen invention figure11What about the healing power of the Divine working through chemists and pharmacists in the 1950’s when IbuProfen was invented?  What about the Holy Spirit whispering inspiration to Dr. Stewart Adams and his colleagues John Nicholson and Colin Burrows and the miraculous power of the Christ working through the hundreds of people involved in this medication’s research and development? Why is that not considered the hand of God?  Why is that NOT a miracle?  Maybe God thought – “Hmmm… people aren’t as open to healings through faith the way they used to be and so many people have arthritis, headaches, and dental pain.  I think I’ll get together a team of doctors and develop a simple medication that can help…”  Does God only speak through burning bushes?

I think the whole thing is a miracle!  Not to mention the whole process of someone burrowing a tiny hole into the root of a tiny tooth, extracting the infected pulp and then flushing an antiseptic fluid in and out of said tiny hole until all the infection is gone and then filling the hole back up with a rubber compound called gutta-percha, a purified form of Mazer Wood Trees indigenous to Indonesia and Malaysia that is combined with zinc oxide and other materials to form a rubbery filling.  How in the world did anyone ever think of taking a tree from Indonesia and sticking it inside someone’s tiny root canal??  I say only God can come up with something so crazy!

You see, I see no conflict between modern medicine and God – I think it’s all good, it’s all God, it’s all healing and it’s all miraculous!

xray_2210115bAn ophthalmologist surgeon giving sight back to a blind person by implanting a light-sensitive microchip into the back of their eye is just as much PROOF to me of God’s miracles as Jesus giving sight to a blind person through prayer.  The wonders of Science doesn’t take anything away from God, it only adds to God!

In the Threshold weekend with Peter Rollins a few weeks ago, he talked about the group dynamics of some churches where doubt and questioning anything openly is NOT allowed, though everyone knows that everyone has doubt, including the pastor, and those who actually have NO doubt at all are a problem.  He gave the example of when the preacher will say that if you have absolute faith and you pray to Jesus Christ He can heal anything – and everyone nods their heads, but everyone knows that if someone broke their leg, you take them to the emergency room and the people who ACTUALLY sit and pray over someone’s broken leg are a real problem for the community – it’s showing that they don’t really literally believe what they SAY they do.

miracle18I say – pray with absolute faith AND take the person to the emergency room.  Isn’t it miraculous that doctors and nurses can take a bone that is shattered in tiny pieces and affix metal bars and add in additional bone matter and the bone regrows and heals and thank the Lord, the person can walk again!  Alleluia!  Just because God uses doctors and nurses and metal bars and bone matter, is it less of a miracle?  Why do we put these ridiculous notions on God that all miracles have to come thundering down from a cloud?

It reminds me of the old joke about the pastor and the flood.  There are flood warnings blasting out on all the radio stations urging everyone to evacuate the area, terrible floods are coming, but the pastor says, “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.”  Then the water rises up over the steps of the church and as the pastor stands there in knee-high water a boat comes by and they say “Get in, Father, we all have to evacuate.”  But the pastor says “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.”  The water rises and rises until the pastor is hanging on to the steeple, and then a helicopter flies by and the rescue workers throw down the ladder and yell “Grab the ladder, Father, and we’ll fly you to safety.”  But the pastor says “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.”  Then he drowns.  As he gets up to heaven and stands before God, confused and dejected he asks “God, I had faith in You, why didn’t You save me?”  And God says “Didn’t you hear the radio announcements?  And what about the boat I sent or the helicopter?”

scientific_education_evolutionary_biology_152God works through all of us – through rescue workers, radio announcers, emergency room doctors, chemists and dentists.  I was listening to Richard Rohr‘s “Christ, Cosmology and Consciousness” audio book the other day and he was talking about how the Big Bang, quantum physics and the study of the Cosmos is exactly in line with not only God but the bible.  There is no need for Christians to be opposed to evolution.  The highest testament to God’s greatness and glory is the ability for Her to create life that EVOLVES – life that is so intelligent and intuitive that it adapts and mutates as needed, life that is so filled with God’s creative power that it grows and changes and improves upon itself, life that is so inspired and filled with God’s spirit that it invents ocular implants, root canals and helicopters.

God’s miracles take many forms – and sometimes those forms look just like me and you.  We are ALL a part of the miraculous healing of our selves, our communities and our world.  God’s miracles are manifested through humanity and in humanity, all around us, every day, as plain as the nose on your face.  Sometimes God’s miracles come to us as a revelation.  Sometimes God’s miracles come to us as Ibuprofen.


Are Lobsters Going to Hell?

lobsterOk, I haven’t done a silly post in a long time.  Given that I haven’t been posting every day I have not felt in danger of taking myself too seriously, but I should stay committed to my policy of regular silly posting none-the-less.  I guess the real danger of taking yourself too seriously is when you think you are not in danger!

So, my silly post this week is about my idea to stage a protest outside of Red Lobster!  We could make signs, form a picket line, stamp back and forth yelling slogans.  It could even be a nationwide Red Lobster boycott that could make for silly nationwide news coverage!

Why am I picking on Red Lobster?  What have they done?  Violated workers rights or paid their employees paltry wages like McDonalds?  Served french fries with 19 ingredients like McDonalds?  Why am I not calling for a boycott of McDonalds instead??

Well, it’s biblical.

The bible says that shellfish are an abomination!  In fact, it says so 7 times, so it must be like a really bad abomination!  So, that is why I’m asking the question (despite the fact that I don’t believe hell exists, that happiness is inevitable for all living things, including lobsters, and that in the end Love always wins):  Are lobsters going to hell?

Leviticus 11:10 says “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” 

RedLobster_ext2_cropped_959_487_90_c1I’m not really clear if this means that those who eat lobsters are going to hell or that the lobsters themselves are going to hell, but someone sure is going to hell and it definitely means we should stage protests outside of Red Lobster!  Right?

I always think of this when I see people protesting Equal Rights for LGBTQ persons on the basis of the bible.  I want to join them with signs saying “Lobsters are Going to Hell!” and “Poly-Cotton Blends are Sinful!” and “Stop Women from Braiding Their Hair NOW!”  (Yes, Leviticus also bans wearing cloth “of two kinds of material mixed together” and women braiding their hair or wearing gold, pearls or costly garments.)

churchsignIn looking up Leviticus verses for this post I actually came across a website called God Hates Shrimp.  I was relieved to find out that the site was in fact a parody, pointing out just the sort of thing that my Red Lobster boycott aims to – that to pick and choose which bible verses to plaster on neon green poster board is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.

The blog 11 points put together a list of 11 things that are banned in the bible that we do anyway, and no one thinks a thing about it.  And there are much more than 11 things – and not all of them are silly.  Along with the rules stating how many camels should be given in dowry to the husband’s family, how many chickens should be given to the rabbi after each woman’s menstrual cycle before she may enter the temple again and how a man may not harm the edges of his beard, the bible also calls for stonings and all kinds of barbaric punishments for relatively minor offenses and endorses slavery, as long as the slaves are foreigners.

Personally, I believe more in tuning in to the Living Word of God that resides in our hearts and tells us what is right, what is loving and what brings us closer to Christ or Krishna, but for an alternate use of bible verses – here is a list of 15 bible verses that support LGBTQ Equality!

So, in a typical self-contradiction, and in a typical silly post turning social justice, I have changed my mind and instead of boycotting Red Lobster, I call for Lobster Rights!  Lobsters and Shrimp Unite!  Take a stand for your worthiness in the eyes of the Lord!  In my heart of hearts I know, God Loves Lobsters, too!


HRC_Red-LogoIn the absence of a Lobster Rights Campaign, please consider helping Human Rights Campaign in their fight for equality!


Do We Really Want to Be a God-Fearing People?

lovewinsI went to a wonderful event at The Collective last weekend – their Threshold Weekend with Peter Rollins.  There was much inspiration and food for thought and Peachy and I enjoyed it thoroughly (Peachy came, too, even though she is already enlightened).

At one point Peter Rollins mentioned a book by Rob Bell called “Love Wins” and how controversial it was when it came out, how certain churches would vehemently oppose it and shout “Blasphemy!”  I hadn’t heard of the book and wondered how something with such a benign title as “Love Wins” could cause such a stir?  What is controversial about Love winning?

When I looked up the book on amazon I saw that the full title of the book is “Love Wins: a Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  Ah – Rob Bell wrote a book questioning hell, questioning the existence of some horrible realm of demons and suffering where people might get sent for eternity if they sin or even if they simply don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior, even if they have never heard of him.  He’s simply asking the question – Would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?

Again – why is this controversial?  Isn’t the answer obvious?  To me, it’s just common sense that a Loving God would not be capable of condemning anyone to an eternity of fire, damnation and torture with a red-hot poker. To me, it’s common sense that a Loving God would ensure that Happiness is Inevitable for all living things.  To me, it’s common sense that God’s love for us will ensure not only our eventual happiness but also the inevitability of World Peace.  Of course Love Wins!

I sincerely ask the question – why would anyone be offended and angry over someone stating that God loves us too much for a fiery Hell of eternal anguish to exist?  What is the attachment to hell?

inferno_purgatory_paradise_mapHell really doesn’t make sense.  I remember reading Dante’s Inferno in college.  It is a Medieval classic describing the many layers of hell (complete with a vestibule) with specific cruel punishments for specific sins, the torture becoming more and more atrocious with each level.  But oddly enough, the first layer of hell, called Limbo, is not such a terrible place.  In the first level of the inferno live Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and all the great minds of antiquity that Dante’s culture admired and revered.  Yet, they had lived and died before Jesus Christ, so they could not have been saved, no matter how intelligent or noble, and therefore they had to spend eternity in hell.  But because Dante liked them and they really couldn’t help it, he made the first level of hell an ok place to be – it’s just that they were technically eternally damned, so they certainly weren’t allowed into Heaven or even Purgatory.

Everyone can see the ridiculousness of that situation, right?  In order to conform to the non-sensical theology of his time, Dante invented a version of hell that wasn’t too bad for his philosophical heroes to dwell in. And we can all understand it – we don’t want our loved ones to burn in hell!  Of course not, even if we believe their religion or their life style choices to be wrong, we love them, we don’t want them to be damned for all time.  It’s heart breaking.  Shouldn’t we be glad to realize that a Loving God would never banish billions of soul to hell?

So why not just give up the idea of hell and embrace the reality that a Loving God loves us all?  Is it that we haven’t learned to love our unknown-23enemies yet?  Is it that we don’t like the idea of God loving those who we don’t love ourselves?  Is it that, even though we want a happy ending for ourselves, we’re not willing to give up on the idea that those we don’t like or disagree with will surely spend all of eternity in suffering?  Are we hanging on to hell out of our own anger, spite or vindictiveness?  That’s not pretty, is it?

Yet, here we are in 2015 and people are still clinging to the notion of God sending souls into eternal darkness and torment?  The idea of Love Winning and conquering hell is somehow controversial?  We are still hanging on to the Medieval sense of hell and of an angry God that will throw us in a deep dark dungeon and throw away the key.  What is the attachment to fearing God?

god-is-loveI’ve never understood fearing God.  I didn’t grow up in a religious household, which in this instance might have been a good thing.  I was never taught to fear God, I was never told that if I wasn’t a good girl I’d go to hell or God would be angry and punish me.  I had enough to deal with anger and punishment from my regular human parents, but at least I didn’t grow up with some kind of Heavenly Father about to strike me down with lightning.  Whenever I go to church and there is some kind of creed or prayer spoken about fearing God, I always abstain or change the words to “loving God.”

I remember at one point hearing a rather simplistic new age edict that every emotion was either from fear or love.  The theory was that every negative human emotion such as anger, hatred, envy or depression has fear as a root cause and all positive human emotions come from love.  I don’t know if the mysteries of the human heart and of all emotional energy in the universe is actually this simplistic, but it makes sense that fear is the opposite of love.  So, if God IS Love, how can we come closer to God through fear?  How can we know and feel God in our lives through fear?  Again, I ask, why would we want to be a God-fearing people?

hell-no-cd_thumbnailI saw that Richard Rohr also has a CD called “Hell, No!” questioning the existence of hell.  In the CD’s description it says:

“Until Christians deal with their false notion of hell, their capacity to love and trust God is seriously compromised. Such a belief aims the whole Christian life in a fear-based direction and with a narrow win/lose worldview that only appeals to the ego.  Love cannot happen through threat, punishment, or demand. God’s ways are much more subtle and true. The largely medieval notion of hell that many Christians hold to this day makes mystical union with God largely impossible and even undesirable.”

When you fear someone, you basically just want them to leave you alone, not notice you – you want to go about your business, following the rules and hoping God won’t notice any sins you might commit along the way so you can just skate through and not end up in hell.  If you know someone who will severely punish others for mistakes or transgressions, who will inflict pain and suffering – is that someone you want to be close with?  Is that someone you can love deeply and intimately, even if you think the punishments are justified?  No – believing that God would send souls to an eternity of pain keeps us from even wanting a mystical union with God and keep us from truly knowing and feeling the all-loving and all-merciful God that only wants our absolute healing and happiness.

Quite contrary to an angry punishing God of medieval hell fame – I experience God as eager to love us!  Eager for our happiness!  Eager for us to open and receive His healing presence of Peace!

If we are a God-fearing people, then we can’t at the same time be a God-loving people.  So, let’s give up the idea of hell and punishment, let’s truly believe in the forgiveness of sins and the Victory of God and Christ and Love.  Let’s eagerly run into the arms of our All Loving God.  It’s inevitable anyway.  Love always wins!

Love-WinsContinue your contemplation of a Loving God with these posts:

Stand on One Leg and LOVE!  The Rest is Commentary

Grace v. Karma

devil_angel440x3001No, Grace v. Karma is not the name of a new spiritually oriented courtroom dram-edy on TV about two angels incarnated as attorneys navigating the touchy issue of Grace and forgiveness vs. Karma and punishment (though it would make a great new show and I think I’ll start writing a pilot right away).

I saw this very interesting video recently about the fall of the Angel Lucifer because he didn’t agree with God about the new plan of Grace through the Christ Consciousness.  I was planning on showing the clip here but interestingly, I can no longer find the video anywhere – which is good, because it was really only the main concept that interests me, so I will simply recap.

In the video they talk about these things very matter-of-factly, as if they are simply giving a history lesson of what happened in the Angelic realms in times primordial.  I don’t really know if all these things can be considered historically accurate.  I think when we are talking about multi-dimensional Divine history it is entirely possible that more than one thing was happening at once and to say something might be true doesn’t mean another account is untrue.  Add to that the fact that our own perceptions and understandings of these things can be somewhat limited and our verbal expressions are even more limited.  All this to say that I’m not 100% convinced that the account they gave went down exactly as it was spoken, like characters with lines in a most epic movie, but I do believe there were some very interesting concepts worth contemplating.

arts-graphics-2008_1183116aBasically, what they explained was that when the worlds and the universe was formed and Lucifer was still one of the “good guys,” he was given dominion over the earth and humanity.  The plan for humanity’s evolution on earth was more along the lines of karma – learning your lessons by cause and effect, so if you kill 8 people in one lifetime you have to come back and get killed 8 times to balance that out before you can progress.  But pretty soon (whatever that means in Eternal time?), God figured out that this was going to take forever (again, quite funny given that God exists outside of time!), and so he decided to change the plan from karma to GRACE.  So, God sent the Christ Consciousness (in the form of Christ, Krishna, Buddha etc) to earth to remind all us silly souls running around taking an eye for an eye that karma was not such a great idea.  Apparently, Lucifer didn’t like this so he rebelled and well, the rest is what they call “history” if you can call mythic biblical angelic/demonic events history.

So – God overrode the law of karma with the law of Grace!  The Christ Consciousness was sent here to free us from karma, from sin, from error and ignorance.

Yet I know that much of religion still has a lot to do with the tension between Karma and Grace.  On the one hand is Sin, struggle, guilt, redemption, repentance and doing the right religious rituals to somehow earn our salvation.  On the other hand is GRACE – the complete and absolute love from God that says, there are NO rules, there is NO sin, you don’t need to do anything except receive the Grace of God!

I sometimes think, ok, if you really believe that Christ died for our sins, then BE forgiven!  Stop feeling bad or guilty and receive the Grace (of course, in all humility, this is easier said than done).  To quote from my Valentine, Richard Rohr, “People get trapped in chains of guilt and low self-esteem, what they judge to be poor performance and less than perfect attendance. As if the goal of religion is “attendance” at an occasional ritual instead of constant participation in an Eternal Mystery!”

So – one could say that Grace is part of the Eternal Mystery.  It is hard to understand that God’s Grace is available to anyone at all times for no reason whatsoever.  But that is the definition of Grace, isn’t it?

247987_349278608498234_1130549657_nAt one point, I was told repeatedly that my Grace had “run out.”  That somehow my bad karma had caused my grace to dry up, I couldn’t have any more because I had, in her opinion, been a bad girl.  At the time I kind of accepted that and tried to improve myself and “earn” more grace again – but now I realize that statement was not only not true in my case, it is NEVER true in any case – it is FUNDAMENTALLY false.  It is completely contrary to the very definition of Grace!

If I feel bad about myself, if I believe someone else telling me I am not worthy, if I deprive myself of the experience of Grace that is available to me at all times, then that is my own doing.  Likewise, if a person is angry and hateful and destructive, they probably won’t experience a lot of Grace, but that has nothing to do with their deservability – it has to do with their focus.

Grace has nothing to do with karma or sin.  That’s the whole point!  Grace transcends karma.  Grace overrides and overrules karma.  Grace trumps karma.  Grace extinguishes karma.  Grace kicks karma’s butt.  To quote Richard Rohr again:  “Divine Love is stronger than hell, death, or sin. In the end, grace wins!”

Grace is so beyond karma that there isn’t really any “versus” – Grace doesn’t even struggle with karma at all – it just shines its glorious light of infinite love and radiance endlessly through the whole universe as if karma doesn’t even exist.

bluepearlocean2One night, many years ago, as I was walking up from the temple after an evening gathering of chanting and meditation, I stopped to look up at the stars.  What I “saw” with my inner eye was God’s Grace showering down upon the whole earth – like a warm golden light of luminous love, peace and absolute good that was just part of the fabric of the universe, constantly showering down upon us, radiating through our very lives even if we don’t notice.  And now I somehow know that this wasn’t just a moment of Grace I happened to witness – it is ALWAYS happening.  Grace is inside us all and inside all of life, the entire universe!  All we have to do is realize it.

And I guess that is the tricky part – realizing it.  That is where the illusion of karma comes in, the illusion of our stories, our guilt or lack of self-worth, what falsehoods we believe about ourselves or about God.  I guess that is where the repentance, the prayer, the ritual and the spiritual practice comes in.  That is where it’s important to be able to discern – wait, my Grace has not run out – that is impossible!

It also has to do with our judgment of others, our use of karma to blame and justify the suffering of others and to withhold the compassion that would flow naturally from our hearts if we were filled with Grace. We can’t really take the goodies of the Grace for ourselves without sharing them with everyone.  Grace doesn’t work that way.  So, I guess in order to live in Grace we must 1) realize that we deserve to receive God’s Grace for no reason at all and 2) realize that is true for all of us.  Except that there are no “musts” when it comes to Grace.  Grace is a Mystery.  So, forget about everything I just said and just experience the Grace.

God’s Grace is here, it’s free, it’s radiant and embedded in the very fabric of the universe for us to simply BE.


God’s Valentine (a.k.a. the Creation)

rama_thumb3Many Valentine’s days ago I was very focused on Lord Rama as my face of God.  I had read the Ramayana, the story of the incarnation of the god Vishnu as the benevolent ideal king of Ayodhya, the ideal brother to Lakshmana and the ideal husband to Sita.

I was chanting Sri Ram Jai Ram every chance I got – every morning, every evening, every day in my car as I drove the 40 minutes to and from work, as I brushed my teeth and got dressed, as I went out on errands… Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.  Once I got so into declaring the Victory of God as the Jai Ram chant sped up that I got a speeding ticket, as I inadvertently sped up automotively, as well.  But I was in such bliss and love for God that I smiled up at the very nice officer with such overwhelming appreciation for his beautiful soul as he gave me my vehicular citation.  He smiled back at me and thanked me for being so kind.  And I thanked him for my ticket and drove off, my bliss completely unphased.  

wedding-of-rama-and-sitaI had pictures of Rama with his blue skin and his bow and arrow everywhere.  One of my favorites was a picture of him looking at Sita with steadfast and complete love.  I would imagine myself as the Beloved of Rama, the true and devoted wife of God and I was in love with Rama heart and soul! 

I was working at a holistic spa as a massage therapist along with my friend and fellow God devotee who was a head-over-heels gopi for Krishna.  The two of us used to pretend like she was “dating” Krishna and I was “dating” Rama and we’d leave each other messages on the phone message pad saying things like “Shanti, Krishna called and wondered if you and Rama wanted to double date tonight for dinner, he can pick us up in his chariot after work.”  The other massage therapist had no idea what we were talking about and did not realize that we were both “dating” Gods with blue skin, two different incarnations of Vishnu.  We were both silly and giddy in love.  

fb0400So, for my Valentine’s Day prayer that year I prayed for Lord Rama to pierce my heart with his arrow.  Now, Rama’s bow and arrow are not some little cupid baby toys – they are serious big friggin arrows!  He could shoot an arrow and split ten tree trunks in two and then have his arrow turn around and return to him!  His arrows could vanquish demons and win wars over evil!  So, this was not some piddly little cherub arrow we were talking about.  But I was courageous – or rather, I was too in love to be in fear, and I wanted my Valentine, Lord Rama, to pierce my heart wide open.

On Valentine’s day I had an outcall massage appointment for a lady who was home bound a half our into the countryside, so I was driving through the hills on my way out, chanting Jai Ram as usual.  I drove by a small enclosure with a herd of goats grazing and as I glanced to the side of the road one particular goat caught my eye.  He had big curled horns on the sides of his head – he was a ram.  A what?  Yes, a RAM, as in Jai Ram.  In the split second my eyes fell upon this RaChinese_Lunar_Zodiac_Ram_Sheep_Goat_Horned_Namesakem at the side of the road my heart was exploded!  It was Ram’s arrow piercing my heart, God answering my prayer.

All of a sudden, the whole world became a declaration of Ram’s love for me!  The green grassy hills were screaming “I love you!” everywhere I looked.  The trees were fervently flinging adoration on me as I drove by them, the flowers were passionately singing their love for me into the air, the sky was showering love down upon me.  As I continued driving down the road (God is not like alcohol, you can operate heavy machinery while intoxicated with the Divine) the rolling hills on both sides would reach out to caress me with sweet tenderness as I passed by.  My heart was bursting and expanding and overflowing and expanding again.

I noticed that even the road signs warning of sharp curves ahead seemed to be loving me just as ardently as the living greenery.  The street signs didn’t contain mere names signifying geographical locations – they also contained, hidden within the names, syllables of God’s Eternal love.  I don’t know why the road signs loving me seemed stranger than all of nature caressing me with love, but it did.

Cloud Curves Ahead_0The experience lasted maybe a total of ten minutes but I felt filled with enough love to last me all of eternity.  And it helped me realize that God is always declaring His/Her love for us in ALL of Creation – in goats and grassy hills, in sunshine and flowers, in birds and bees – even in road signs, even in innate man-made reflective yellow painted metal road signs.  So, even though my heart is not quite so pierced every day of my life, my heart is forever changed and whenever I see a curvy road ahead, I remember…. God is Love.

My Not-So-Secret Valentines

Valentines_Heart_by_ADJalbertAs Valentine’s is fast approaching, and as I believe that God is everyone’s Soul Mate, instead of worrying about if I will get flowers or a box of chocolates, I turn my focus onto my Eternal Beloved.  I have a good story to tell of the Valentine’s Day when God sent me a Valentine and pierced my heart with His arrow… and I’ll save that for Saturday, February 14th.

For today, I’ll simply share with you a love poem and the names of this year’s Valentine’s crushes.  Yes – as Love is a Wave and the Ocean, I have three secret crushes that I will reveal here now:

1. God.  Ok, that’s probably not a secret.

2. Peachy.  Again, pretty much everyone knows that.

3. Richard Rohr.  He is my new crush, my newly discovered Franciscan friar interfaith contemplative lover of God who I’ve been absolutely giddy about.  (Yes, I feel giddy over monks and nuns, sadhus and yogis – lovers of God make my heart go pitter patter like a teenage girl seeing a cute guy or a rock star.)

god-2Peachy love 2fr-rohr-franciscan

Honestly – I don’t know who is cuter?  (Ok, it’s pretty clear Peachy wins on that account).  In a way it seems silly to think of God or Franciscan Friars as cute – but why shouldn’t we be just as silly and in love with the Divine as we are with our high school sweethearts?

I do believe that all our expressions of Love stem from the same source – Love Itself, also known as God, Brahman, Allah, Krishna, Pure Consciousness and Quantum Entanglement.  I also believe that every human endeavor is an expression of our yearning to return to our Oneness in Love – from our high school crushes to the building of the world’s tallest building.  And I believe that every tree, river, bird and blade of grass is constantly expressing that same Love and Oneness for/with God.

So, the sweet love poem I want to share is from Thomas Merton and I just read it in my daily contemplation from my #3 crush, Richard Rohr.

My favorite part of the daily contemplation is actually from the description of Thomas Merton:  Merton wrote extensively about contemplation, and his own prayer practice “centered entirely on attention to the presence of God and to His will indexand His love . . . a kind of praise rising up of out of the center of Nothing and Silence” (The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 63-64). That is such a beautiful description of my favorite kind of prayer and meditation – putting my attention on the Mystery of God’s Love, the mystery of how my love for God makes me One with God as we merge in the midst of this experience of LOVE, and the deep gratitude and praise which rises up out of the silence of this realization.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy Joyous Love for God and from God AS God.

Here is one of Thomas Merton’s exuberant, joyous psalms:


Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.

The distant blue hills praise you,

together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.

The bickering flycatchers praise you

with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.


I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,

and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.

We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.


Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

-Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 131-132

Thomas merton God shining through it

Awakening Is Fun and Broccoli Is Delicious

holy_spirit_fire_by_jpsmsu40I started my first Peter Rollins book last night.  I’m reading ‘Insurrection – to Believe is Human, to Doubt, Divine’ as part of The Collective‘s Virtual Insurrection on-line group reading experience.  This is the book whose mere title inspired an entire blog post about Doubting Thomas.

In the introduction, Peter Rollins promises that this book won’t be an easy read, in fact, many will find it disturbing as it will burn up our false concepts of a religion concerned with life after death to reveal the true transformation of Christ that takes place now in our life before death.  It sounds terrible… but wait a minute, isn’t that a good thing?

I guess it depends on what part of your self you are identifying with – the part of you that wants to hang on to ignorance and suffering or the part of you that wants to awaken into Light and happiness.  If you identify with your ego, I guess it’s disturbing and uneasy.  If you identify with your soul, it’s a downright party!  Woo hoo – freedom and transformation, let’s go!

So, why not say this book will be a great experience because it will set you free from false outer holiness to experience happiness in the transformation into what is truly holy inside your very soul!  Doesn’t that sound like more fun?  Why should awakening be so hard and painful?  Why should awakening be something we embark upon with dread because we know it’s really good for us, kind of like eating brussel sprouts or broccoli (which can actually both be quite delicious).

happinessLast year I went to the Ash Wednesday service at Trinity.  The pastor started talking about how Lent is the time to rend our hearts and offer up anything that is unpleasing to God and I thought “YES!  How wonderful, thank you – I so long to purify my heart of anything that is unpleasing to God.”  I was so happy!  “What a wonderful time of year Lent is,” I thought.

Then all of a sudden the pastor starts saying, “I know, you’re squirming in your seats, you want to hang on to all your attachments and desires, you want to hide all that stuff from God, I know you’ve been dreading Lent all year.”  And the rest of the sermon was all about how we don’t want to purify our hearts.  Say what?

Why wouldn’t I want to get rid of anything in me that is unpleasing to God?  If it’s unpleasing to God, isn’t it unpleasing to me?  And what’s more, if it’s unpleasing, wouldn’t it be unpleasant?  Why would I want to hang on to attachments and desires that cause me disappointment and suffering? Why would I want to keep a bunch of ugly ego stuff that is festering inside of me keeping me from transforming into the happy, fulfilled, loved and healed human being God wants me to be?

And what’s more, why is the pastor who is supposed to be guiding us closer to God, saying that it’s an awful uncomfortable thing?  Isn’t that backwards? I guess he’s trying to be relatable, acknowledge the part in us that is actually attached to our attachments.  But there is a big difference between acknowledging a part of us that might have resistance to transformation and identifying our selves as that part.  Why not identify ourselves with the much much bigger part of us that has been yearning to purify our hearts of suffering for many lifetimes?  As long as I’m identifying myself as a soul, the only thing I’d be renouncing or “giving up” for Lent is my suffering.

firewalkOtherwise, even in church we are teaching each other that we don’t want to be close to God – that we don’t want to be pleasing to God.  And I’ve heard the same kind of thinking in yogic self-realization circles, talking about awakening as “ego-death” or “walking through the fire.”  If even in church or our spiritual communities we keep identifying ourselves with our baser selves and ego desires instead of our souls, then we will keep telling ourselves that we don’t want our own happiness and spiritual liberation and that it’s something we should be squirming to avoid.

Instead of making Lent out to be so terrible and difficult that the whole congregation should be squirming in our seats, why not simply say, “I know some of you might be having some thoughts of resistance, but remember that to let go of that which is unpleasing to God will make you so much happier!  Your soul longs to be free!”  Let’s not turn some thoughts of resistance into WHO WE ARE.  Wanting to awaken and be happy is after all the Divine Purpose of selfishness – let’s put our selfishness to good use.

bonfire partyInstead of making the reading of a transformational book out to be some difficult task and making our awakening out to be some terrible chore or some painful trial by fire – let’s make it a party!  It’s joyful.  It’s wonderful.  Let’s break out the bongos and marshmallows and burn up all our misconceptions of God and what is holy in a big ole bonfire and dance around it with glee.  Let’s live here as our souls!  Not only will we realize the Secret to Immortality, but we can go about this whole awakening business with the realization that it’s fun to be set free!

To join me in all the Awakening Fun:

What is Inevitable for All Living Things?

golden-ratio-cosmic-constant-617x416Lately, I’ve been chanting the Purnamadah a lot.  It is the first verse of the Isha Upanishad, and it goes like this:

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya
Purnameva Vashishyate

The sanskrit word Purna can be translated in many ways – Complete, Whole, Fullness, Brahman or Reality, but personally the translation I like to use is the word Perfect.  Thus, the translation would be:

Om. That is perfect, this is perfect;
from the perfect, the perfect becomes manifest;
When the perfect is taken from the perfect,
Only the perfect remains.

k8aiVTo me, this chant is a meditation on the immutable perfection of God and God’s whole entire complete full reality called the universe.

Even when you take the perfect out of the perfect, the perfect is still there.  There is nothing that can be done by anyone anywhere in any way that would take away from the perfection of God.  “When the perfect is taken from the perfect, only the perfect remains.”

And from God, the Creation was manifested – so the whole universe is also immutably perfect.  Yes, we have entropy, we have decay, we have a cycle of life and death, we have lions eating gazelles and we even have atrocities taking place on the planet – but remember, Evil is like Peeing in the Ocean, a miniscule percentile of urea in a vast ocean of good.  Underneath it all is the immutable perfection of the Divine Creation.  “From the perfect, the perfect becomes manifest.”

milkyway_800This chant helps me when I am dealing with things that would seem to be less than perfect.  Instead of focusing on “woe is me” or “why is this happening” or going down any number of rabbit holes into negativity and small self-centeredness, I chant “That is perfect, this is perfect…”  And it works.  It helps me to see that behind everything that is happening in my life is an immutable perfection of God loving me, teaching me, molding me.  Everything that I experience is part of God’s creation for my life and is somehow giving me more compassion, more understanding, more inner strength and brings me closer to God.

A few days ago, I plain and simply just had a bad day and at the end of it, I chanted Purnamadah for 45 minutes before bed.  The next morning I felt so happy I wanted to hug everyone at work.  Mind you, I work in a business office, not normally an environment conducive to group hugs, so I had to contain myself – but I only contained my hugs, not my happiness.

pandavas2This chant on the Perfection of God and all of creation reminds me of my favorite story from the Mahabharata.  The Mahabharata is an ancient sanskrit epic about the battle between the good Pandava brothers and their less-than-good cousins the Kaurava brothers.  It being the longest poem ever written, it is all very complicated and I won’t go into it here, but my favorite part takes place during the seven years that the Pandava brothers are living in exile out in the wilderness.

The brothers all come across an enchanted lake.  The nature of the lake’s enchantment is such that when you see it, you immediately get intensely thirsty and want to drink, but before you drink you must answer all of the lake’s riddles, and if you drink without doing so, you die.  So, one by one the brothers come to the shore of the lake, give in to their thirst and then die – until the eldest brother, Yudishthera, comes to the lake and is the master of his thirst.  When the lake says to him “Before you drink, you must answer my riddles,” Yudishthera says “Very well, and if I answer them all correctly, you must bring my brothers back to life.”

Yudhistira_and_YakshaSo, the lake asks a series of riddles, all of which Yudishthera answers correctly without hesitation, and thus, all his brothers are restored from death and they may all drink from the enchanted waters and carry on through the rest of the epic poem to victory.

The riddles are a long string of esoteric or philosophical questions, such as “What is the cause of the world?” with the answer “Love” and “What is the opposite of your self?” with the answer “Myself.”  But the one that really got me, the one that makes this my favorite part of the longest poem in the world is this:

“What is inevitable for all living things?”

Being as philosophical and esoteric as I thought I was when I first heard this, I thought the answer would be something like “Death” or “Change.”  However, the correct answer that Yudishthera gave to save his brothers was “Happiness.”

Happiness is inevitable for all living things!

Summer-happiness-photoContemplating this tidbit from the Mahabharata made me ecstatically happy for days.  I would walk around seeing random people in a grocery store or post office and think “you are going to be happy!”  I felt like I was going to burst with the wonderfulness of the inevitability of happiness!

It felt kind of like the other morning after chanting the Purnamadah.  And really, they are both contemplations on the same thing.  No matter what it looks like right now, no matter what is going on in my life or what things could cause me stress and unhappiness if I let them – that is perfect, this is perfect.

There is an immutable perfection of God behind everything and happiness is inevitable for all living things!

For the beautiful Shantala chant:

For the Indian epic or its excerpt, the Bhagavad Gita:

 Or if you prefer the movie version (and there is no shame in that):

Doubt is a Virtue (or How Doubting Thomas Got a Bad Rap)

1279824593jesusthomasDoubting Thomas got a bad rap.

Why would we consider it a bad thing to ask questions?  Why is it more virtuous to simply accept a belief without any examination or query?  If you think about it, it’s actually good to think about it, it’s good to think about things before accepting them blindly.

Doubting is a good thing.  Blind faith is not really faith at all.

Jesus taught in parables.  Jesus told stories that he did not interpret – instead he left the interpretation and the contemplation up to us.  Even the interpretations that are in the bible are not part of the quoted words of Jesus, but rather the commentary of the author that is added by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.  If Jesus didn’t want us to question or think for ourselves, he could have just spoken his teachings in the form of commandments for jesus parablesus to accept.  But he spoke them in the form of stories for us to think about and pray over so that we could realize the truth for ourselves.  And if we stop doing this and simply accept the interpretations presented to us by the priest or pastor or pope, then we aren’t internalizing the teachings the way Jesus intended. 

A few days ago, my good friends Terry and Sarah introduced me to a “radical theologian” by the name of Peter Rollins.  We listened to a few chapters from one of his audio books, and it was captivating (and not just because of his Irish accent).  I looked up his website and saw the books he has written – and even though I haven’t even had time to read them yet, the titles themselves are thought-provoking:

  • The Divine Magician – the Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith
  • The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction
  • Insurrection: To Believe is Human; to Doubt, Divine

“To Believe is Human, to Doubt, Divine.”  Yes – to doubt is a virtue; to question and to contemplate is divine.  This is the practice of self-inquiry from the East – turning our focus inside to realize from within the truth of the Self and of God.  This is the “Inquire Within” of philosophers from every culture.  Even Plato’s Allegory of the Cave taught this – do not accept the shadows on the wall of the cave as truth, set your mind free, leave the cave and see for yourself what reality is.

To quote from more than just the title and include the back of the book as well (not that I’m recommending judging a book by its cover, in fact, that is expressly what I am advocating against, but it’s only been a couple of days and I promise if I actually read the books I’ll write about them from a more informed perspective later, but for now…):

Holy-Spirit-Fire“It is only as we submit our spiritual practices, religious rituals, and dogmatic affirmations to the flames of fearless interrogation that we come into contact with the reality that Christianity is in the business of transforming our world.”

Thomas asked questions when Jesus presented a teaching, not as some form of betrayal or undermining, but because he was internalizing the words that Jesus spoke and letting them transform him.  He was making the understanding of the truth Jesus was pointing at a part of his being.  Thomas doubting Jesus was a sign of respect.  In the gospel that was attributed to Thomas, which was later thrown out of the bible and ordered to be burned by Emperor Constantine and the Nicene council, he didn’t focus on Jesus’ birth, biography or even his crucifixion.  The Gospel of Thomas is simply a collection of Jesus’ teachings.  For Thomas, it wasn’t Jesus’ life story that was important – not even the virgin birth or the miracles and hoopla surrounding his life and death.  What mattered to Doubting Thomas was the truth that Jesus taught.

annunciation-midNow, I love everything about Jesus – the miracles and hoopla included.  And I think that God can do anything God wants and to split an atom in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit would be a piece of cake.  I don’t have any issues with anyone who chooses to believe that is what happened.  And I absolutely feel the presence of Mother Mary as a vibrant holy being filled with tremendous love and compassion here and now, so I have no qualms about people praying to her.  She is a saint and a Bodhisattva in her own right – an enlightened soul who is present to help those who ask her for healing.

It’s just that the virgin birth is not a necessary part of my love and faith in Jesus Christ – or Mother Mary, for that matter.  I cannot say with certainty if it happened or not, but it doesn’t matter to me and to argue about it seems silly.  If God had not split the atom in Mother Mary’s womb through the Holy Spirit but had as a matter of historical fact split that atom through more tradition means, it would not make Mother Mary or Jesus any less holy in my eyes.  Mother Mary would still be a being of vast compassion and Jesus would still be an embodiment of God’s love and grace – and his teachings would still hold the seeds of our spiritual freedom in knowing God.

I see this in the title “The Idolatry of God: Breaking our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction.”  In a sense, if we simply idolize God and Christ and do not doubt or question or contemplate, but just accept our religion because it’s more virtuous to have faith or because it’s more comfortable to feel certain than to question, this is not a very solid faith.   It is in practicing the virtue of doubting, of “inquiring within,” that we can really FEEL the truth for ourselves and decide what we truly believe in, not as an outside certainty, but as our internal faith.  And while there is nothing I love more than adoring God and I think it is right to give Him thanks and praise, I don’t want to replace the faith of my own inquiry with a blind idolatry of God.

extremism-islam_2526444bHiding out within a set of beliefs that is already put forth for you from someone else is in a way not very responsible.  God gave us our minds with the ability to think, God gave us free will – so it is honoring of God to actually use them.  In fact, on one side of the spectrum simply accepting someone else’s version of religion is downright dangerous.

We see this in extremism – when followers of fanatical religious leaders who spout hate and even violence do not doubt what they are told – and the results are horrific.  But we also see this in the less extreme ways where religious beliefs spawn prejudices or social norms that are exclusive and discriminatory – as in gay or lesbian human beings not having the same rights as any other human being.  And even though I have never been a religious extremist, I experienced the trappings of this mychristianextremismself by accepting someone else’s certainty as my own and feeling like it was wrong for me to doubt or to question.  It kept me disempowered from listening to my inner voice, the living word that exists in my heart and it was quite a struggle for me to embrace the virtue of doubt and listen to my true faith again.

This is why I love the title “the Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith.”  It is in the process of doubting the edicts of religion that we come to true faith.  And true faith is only between you and God – it is beyond religion.  These are the mystical teachings of Jesus that Thomas loved so much because through his doubt he came to internal knowing.

Faith is not about certainty.  In a way, faith is the opposite of certainty.  Faith is being a willing and humble participant in the mystery of God.  To quote from Peter Rollin’s Wikipedia page (that other cliff notes way of judging a book by its cover) “he views faith as a particular way of engaging with the world rather than a set of beliefs about the world.”  Faith is an active process – a verb, a living and flexible transformative power.

I do not pretend that I can know God with certainty, I can only trust the living loving Presence of God and do my best to follow Her. As Bishop John Shelby Sponge says in my very first post:

“The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me. God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t believe my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.”

So, if we all honor our traditions and walk through our respective religions towards the truth of God that they point to, then we can heal our humanity of the wounds that religion has inflicted and live together in faith.  If we all incorporate the practice of Doubting Thomas into our religious experience, we could all stay humble and flexible and live in harmony with other seekers similarly doubting their teachings of God.

bloemen-vraagtekenDoubt and Faith are two sides of the same coin – it’s the paradox or Yin and Yang of belief.  The process of doubt gives our faith depth and dimension.  True internal faith is humble enough to not need certainty but to contain within itself its opposite – the virtue of doubt. 

If you’d like to read Peter Rollins books before I do, here are the links: