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:

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!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

winter_morning_wallpaper

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:

God’s Limitlessness & Lamps

DISCOURSE 4 - SIGNIFICANCE OF LAMPI am in the process of searching for the right new housemate.  As I’ve shared in a previous post, God manifested the most amazing little blessed home for me and also gave me a wonderful room mate and dear friend all through synchronicity, surrender and prayer.

Well, now my dear friend and house mate has moved away to pursue her artistic and professional dreams, so my own motto of “You only need one” when manifesting something you need (i.e. one job, one parking space, one housemate) has turned into “Well, actually, God, in this instance, I need two.”

Sunday morning I was talking to a sweet friend who asked me if I had found a housemate yet and I said, no, not yet.  She said that God would find me the right one, in the right timing – but maybe I’d need to be patient because God had a lot on his plate right now with terrorism and some pretty big world issues that were higher priorities.  And yes, I agree – ending senseless violence in the name of religion is of highest priority. (Or senseless violence in the name of anything or indeed any violence at all, for can any violence really be sensible?)  However – it struck me that God is not limited.  I think She can take care of the big stuff and the small stuff all at the same time without breaking a sweat.

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Table lamp from God

And just a couple of weeks ago, to show me that God is taking care of me in every single way, however small, God gave me a lamp.

The table lamp in my living room was broken.  I only had the overhead light and it is bright and harsh and anything but relaxing.  In the evenings I had to choose between semi-darkness or full-wattage light.  I had been wanting to get a new lamp to replace it, several times I had almost gotten in my car to go down to Target, but I always changed my mind because I didn’t think it was sensible for me to spend the money right now.

Then I had my sweet friends Vilasini and Suresh over for dinner.  After our lovely meal and spiritual conversation, Vilasini said to me “We have this lamp that’s just been sitting in our closet, do you want it?”  Suresh went out to the car and came back with a gorgeous table lamp.  I was astonished!  How could they bring the one thing that I had been needing?  I hadn’t said anything to anyone.  I had never mentioned how much I wanted a lamp for my living room.  But here they arrived at my house with a lamp.  How does God do that?

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Table lamp from Target

It was a lamp Vilasini’s father had bought when he had gone to visit her in India while she was at Chinmayananda‘s ashram.  They didn’t want to just get rid of it or give it to a thrift store, it was special – but they didn’t want it sitting useless in their closet, either.  It is absolutely beautiful.  It has a carved wood base and a beautifully painted design in teals.  It matches my end table and my couch perfectly!  I could not have picked out a better lamp for my living room in a hundred years and it’s so much more exquisite than anything I could find at Target for any amount of money.

This is one of the most amazing things about God – that God can love ALL of humanity absolutely and also love little ME completely – perfectly Universal and Personal at the same time.  I never feel that God doesn’t want to hear my prayers or that my life is too miniscule for God’s care.  If I just love God, God cares for me in all ways.  Just when I was starting to worry a little bit about my housemate situation and finding the right person, God shows me that it is all perfect and not only is God holding Light and Love for all the world’s major problems, She is taking care of my indoor lighting needs, as well.

So, I am reminded once again to have faith.  I know that God manifested a whole new life for me out of nothing!  God gave me a home, a community, a purpose, a Peachy.  I know that She also has a second perfect housemate for me – or a way for me to be able to live alone if that is my highest.  God is caring for my soul and awakening me to more and more love AND bringing me beautiful Indian lamps to make my living room feel cozy.

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Busy white guy with beard

And this manifestation of the perfect lamp in no way detracts from God’s focus on healing humanity of violence and terrorism.  God’s focus is not limited, God is not confined by time or space.  It’s important to remember that we are made in God’s image (limitless & perfect) and not to project our own limited image onto God (white guy with beard who can only do so much in His busy schedule).

What it feels like to me is that God is absolute perfection!  And simply by BEING That Perfection God holds for the perfection of ALL things at ALL times.  So, God “working towards” the perfect love and compassion of the human heart and the healing of all violence is in a sense done in the same “Act” of holding for the perfect table lamp or the perfect healing of a friend’s surgery or the perfect new job.  God answers all our prayers, no matter how “small”, simply by BEING Perfection, BEING Love, Being Peace, Being Light.  We offer our prayers with sincerity and love into God’s Perfection and we receive Perfection in return – Perfection is reflected back to us.

Something like that.  Of course, as in all things God, there are myriad ways and nuances, multiple yes’s and paradoxes – but this is what I’m feeling right now.  I feel like God is right here for me as my best friend, my Beloved, right here with me in my daily life, in my heart, with me at all times and in all things – in God’s vast expansive limitlessness and the mundane specificity of lamps.

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Straight and Narrow Path ~ Spine of Shiva

530735302_e447c704feI am a firm believer that any book or bible can only help point the way for us to experience the living word of Love and Truth that is in our hearts.  There are many teachings in Christianity and, indeed, in every other religion, which gets taken out of context and twisted into something unrecognizable from the original intent – often times even quite the opposite of what the Teacher, Prophet or Messiah had in mind.  Yet, if you truly pray with an open and yearning heart and contemplate the words, it can lead you back to the original meaning.  This is the point and practice of Mystical Christianity.

Even though I have never read the bible cover to cover, I have had the experience of being in prayer or meditation and suddenly understanding a phrase or a verse that I have heard repeated all my life without knowing what it really means.  One such phrase is “the straight and narrow path.”

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” 

right_roadThis bible verse from Matthew 7:14 has been used for centuries as a way to justify a very straight and narrow religious point of view and all kinds of discrimination or prejudice for those the particular church deems not straight or narrow enough.  But I experience that the phrase is not about being straight as in heterosexual or even straight as in upright and rigidly conforming to religious norms.  And narrow does not mean narrow-minded.

One summer years ago I had just dedicated my life to God and at this particular time that meant I was not working “out in the world.”  I spent my days mostly alone, working at my desk and taking care of my ministry’s retreat center and sweet little temple.  I would water the plants on the decks and in the temple and then take the opportunity to kneel at the altar and pray or meditate.  I wore all white just because I felt like it, and I do admit, some days I would put my white sarong over my head and dress up like a novitiate, just for fun, just because it felt good to me, even though no one else was around to see me – or I guess specifically because no one was around to see me.  (Otherwise the only opportunity I had to dress up like a nun was once a year on Halloween.)

41w5HDcnoKLThroughout the day I would stay tuned into my heart.  I know we often talk of the Temple within the heart, and it is most often used as figurative speech, but I actually would feel my little inner self inside my little inner temple in my heart.  It was like I could tune in to my heart and feel myself kneeling at the Temple in my heart, sometimes prostrating, and sometimes, when I was feeling less than surrendered, I could feel myself standing or restless, not quite in the mood to be empty or devoted.

One day as I knelt before the altar in the temple, I looked at the picture of Jesus and poured forth my love for Him and then closed my eyes with my hands on my heart.  I tuned into the Inner Temple of my heart and could feel myself kneeling with my head bowed to Christ.  All of a sudden I experience myself kneeling inside a column of white light.  It was the most exquisite, peaceful, soft and radiant white light I’d ever felt.  And I could see it as a straight and narrow column or path connecting me to God.  And it didn’t have anything to do with behavior or moral code or do’s and don’ts or should’s – the only thing that helped me stay in this beautiful exquisite blissful straight and narrow column of white light was my focus on loving God.

That was it – that was the mystical meaning of the straight and narrow path that I felt from the living word in my own heart.  I don’t know what mystical scholars or ecclesiastical books might say about what was meant with those words in the bible, but my experience of those words was about the simple and profound power of devotion.  The straight and narrow path I felt inside of me is about keeping my focus steadily on loving God.  It’s not about anything else, and it’s certainly not about judging someone that we deem to be off the straight and narrow path that we have self-righteously drawn out for ourselves.

Shiva NatarajAnd, as is usually the case, this mystical meaning of the straight and narrow focus on God can also be found in other religions with different words.  Last weekend I was over at a friend’s house and they had just acquired a new Shiva Nataraj statue.  They invited us over for puja, to bless and consecrate the new addition to their temple room.  We chanted the Om Namaha Shivaya 108 times and afterwards I stayed in the little room standing in front of the Nataraj.

Shiva is the Hindu aspect of God as the ultimate yogi, the ultimate meditator with absolute pure focus solely on God.  As I was standing in front of the Shiva statue I all of a sudden felt my spine become straight and narrow in single pointed focus on God.  I could feel Shiva’s spine as a focus so straight and narrow that it felt like a thread – a thin, glimmering, golden thread of light.

I was reminded of my experience of the straight and narrow column of light connecting me to God.  Shiva’s spine is also the straight and narrow focus on God, and it has nothing to do with renouncing or not renouncing the world, it has nothing to do with do’s and don’ts or should’s, it only has to do with getting into the state of consciousness where you are residing in single pointed focus of loving God.

The straight and narrow path is internal.  It’s all an inside job.  The mystical truth is between you and God.  And whether you practice devotion to Christ or meditation with Shiva, the straight and narrow path is found in the temple of your own heart.

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Everything in Moderation, Even Moderation

c71154b62e816f03e6f0a6ccfebe0326Given that it is the beginning of the New Year and the store aisles are featuring weights and scales and exercise videos and the collective consciousness is rife with excessive resolutions about moderation, I thought it would be a good time to contemplate both sides of the spectrum, and the middle of the spectrum, as it were.

The West has the adage “Everything in moderation.”  Buddhists have the Middle Path.  Islam has the path of Enlightened moderation.  In Hinduism there is the balance between Advaita and Dvaita, seeing the world as illusion AND as real, being at once detached and engaged.

It seems that moderation is also the rule of nature.  Temperatures are not too high or too low (Global Warming notwithstanding), animal populations have a balance of death and new life and lions only kill one gazelle at a time.  Inside our bodies this middle path is called homeostasis – even in our bones we have a balance between bone production and bone destruction.

And I do believe that moderation is a good thing – a little bit of potassium is necessary to live, too much can kill you.  It is clear that the excesses of Western Civilization have had devastating effects (killing a lot more than one gazelle at a time) and can lead to catastrophic effects (aforementioned Global Warming).  And physically, one glass of wine in the evening may have health benefits, but 5 or 6 is detrimental not only to the liver but to the quality of one’s life on many levels.

In Religion, moderation is a key to compassion and respect of all human beings and cultures.  Moderation is what keeps us from going to extremes of self-righteousness which leads to fanaticism and the most hideous of extremes – hate in the name of love.

Spiritually, moderation is a very important quality.  Without moderation we can get lost in our relationships, our emotions, our attachments, our attainments, even our suffering.  I have learned the painful lesson that without moderation we can lose our connection to that still small voice and listen to the sometimes louder voice of outer extremes.  A spiritual path without moderation can even be dangerous.

Yet, in contradicting myself again, I also believe it’s not good to practice moderation to the extreme.  We don’t want to be so moderate that we are passion-less.  We don’t want to be so middle of the road that we don’t stand for anything.  We don’t want to be so detached that we don’t care.  We don’t want to be so moderate that we hold back our full self and live a half-hearted life.

There are a few things that should be done fully, completely, 110%, no holds barred, do or die, no limits, go for it like there ain’t no mountain high enough!

Loving God is something I recommend doing to the extreme.  That one I am sure about – don’t hold back for any reason.  I guess some would say you should love God in moderation because you need to also feed your family and pay your bills – but I say Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might – and do so WHILE feeding your family and paying your bills.   God wants your children to eat.  God loves your children absolutely, so I would even venture to say that loving God in excess will help you feed your family.  If you are doing something in the name of loving God that somehow interferes with your children eating, then it’s not really loving God.  There is absolutely no reason you can’t take care of daily life while loving God with absolute abandon.

thakur_hriday2I guess sometimes you can love God so much that you go into a state of ecstatic rapture and are not able to write checks, but even so, I say go for it.  It only takes a minute to write a check, so then you have hours to reside in ecstatic bliss.  And if you plan on doing this frequently, like Ramakrishna, make sure that you have someone around you to write those checks for you and to put your loin cloth back on if it falls off while you are in a blissful state of oneness with the Lord.

Most of us don’t need to be concerned about not knowing when our loin cloth falls off because we are so busy loving God to the extreme, like Ramakrishna, and if that is a concern, I’d consider that good fortune and not a reason to love God any less.

Loving our neighbors as our Selves is also something I recommend doing whole-heartedly.  I believe as a soul incarnated here, I am to love my neighbor as I love God – unconditionally, completely and without limits.  And just as there are those who say love God in moderation, there are also those who say love others in moderation – you need to also take care of your self.  And yes, this is true.  We do need to not only eat and sleep but also replenish ourselves emotionally and spiritually – and if we don’t, we will not be able to continue giving.  Yet – this moderation does not mean that we need to LOVE any less.

Indeed, this need for moderation in sleep and food is often confused for an excuse to limit loving – but again, loving your neighbor as your Self does not mean that you do not eat or sleep – it simply means you LOVE your fellow human beings with your whole heart and strive to love them as God loves them.  There is absolutely no reason you can’t eat and sleep while loving your neighbor as your Self.

And it is very important to distinguish between this energy of pure love and its distant dysfunctional cousin, co-dependency.  Giving away your Self to a man or a woman or a parent or any other ego identification is NOT love.  And this same co-dependence can even be acted out in a cause – giving your whole self to feeding the hungry, but from a place of guilt or anger or escaping what you don’t want to face in your own life.  So – in the case of co-dependence, moderation IS good.

MotherTeresaHowever, this is not LOVE.  What I am talking about is LOVING thy neighbor as thy Self in the extreme, no limits – like you are loving God.  When feeding the hungry comes from that place, it is far from dysfunctional, it is saintly and Divine.  Co-dependence in human relationships is the opposite of loving your neighbor, just as fanaticism in religion is the opposite of loving God.  Mother Teresa was not a religious fanatic or a co-dependent do-gooder.  Her mind was balanced and her heart was open and flexible, and she loved humanity to the extreme.  She loved humanity as she loved God.  We should all be a little more like her.

Moderation and extremism is a complicated issue.  It is full of paradoxes and contradiction, open-ended questions and infinite possibilities on both ends of the spectrum and in the extreme point in the Middle.  However, if I were to conclude something , it would be this:

Live life to the fullest, but don’t get addicted to dare-devil sports that will kill you cave-diving when you’re 21.  Love God with all your might, love thy neighbor as thy Self  – to the extreme, and do so with a very high level of discernment and balance of mind.  Extreme love also requires extreme consciousness or it can turn into the opposite of love.  Everything in moderation, even moderation.

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Painting by Jim Thompson at www.art-mind-soul.com

Loving Your Soul Purpose

Two hikers enjoying sunrise from top of a mountainNew Year’s Eve is as good a time as any to contemplate one’s soul purpose.

What is it I am meant to do in life?  What is the purpose of my life?  What does my soul want to do here?  What am I here to accomplish?  Why did I incarnate?  What is my destiny?

In contemplating these things I give you two hints.

The first hint is:  LOVING YOUR SOUL PURPOSE.

When you are doing what it is your SOUL wants to do, you will feel LOVE.  So, what is it you love to do?

And I don’t mean what is pleasurable? I’m not talking about “I love to eat chocolate” or “I love to unwind with my favorite mindless TV show” (although either is OK in moderation). Soul purpose is not about hedonism, selfishness or escapism.  I don’t mean what is it you love to do to relax and unwind?

By loving your soul purpose, what I mean is – what is it that makes you feel alive? What are you passionate about? What inspires you and excites you?  What is it that you walk around thinking about as you go to your car in the parking lot?  What is it you are thinking about when you are brushing your teeth or first thing when you wake up?

Enjoying the sunWhat is it that gets you in the zone?  You know, the zone.  That space beyond every day life where you feel like the whole universe is in alignment like some cosmic chiropractic adjustment just clicked and everything feels RIGHT.

What is it that when you are engaged in it, you are totally absorbed and hours go by in minutes? What gets you to stop thinking and start just being? What brings you fully present into the moment?

You see, when you are doing something that your soul wants to do, your soul is fully participating, fully engaged and present in your body and it feels blissful. It feels like love.

Sometimes it’s obvious what your soul purpose is or what it is you love to do. But sometimes it’s not so obvious.

And soul purpose is not about success or money. It’s not always something that you can turn into a career or make a living – maybe it’s the volunteer work you do or the hobby you have. Maybe it’s the spontaneous help and support you give to your family and friends. And what’s more, it can be a combination of these things – it’s not always ONE thing.

And your soul purpose can be small and simple things. It’s not always some big cause that you can easily turn into some Norma Rae moment of standing on top of factory equipment holding up a sign saying “This is my soul purpose!” It can be something tiny that only those closest to you notice but it makes all the difference in the world to them and to you.

So, as we go into New Year’s Eve and into this New Year of 2015, you can meditate on what this might be for you. You can have a prayerful conversation between you and God and your soul. You can journal and free flow what is most important to you. You can make a list of what inspires you. Or if you are not verbally inclined you can collect images or pictures of what matters most to you.

And don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. It could very well be that you already know what your soul purpose is and if that is the case, just take some time to contemplate it and envision how your purpose will unfold in the coming year.

And now, before you go off and contemplate too much, it is time for the second hint.

The second hint is: LOVING, YOUR SOUL PURPOSE.

hands-holding-candleYes. While the activities and tasks that you have just read about, the things that you love to do, are perhaps what your soul is guiding you to do at any one moment – the actual PURPOSE is not the activity. These are simply ways for your soul to express its purpose.

The actual purpose of any soul is LOVING. I guess that is a bit more than a hint.

Our purpose is to Love.  I would pretty much venture to say that is everyone’s soul purpose, really, if you really get down to it – to Love, to love God, to love our neighbor, to love ourselves, to love those around us, to love those in need, to love the Earth, to love.

As I have recently started writing again and I am sharing my inner spirit in words with the outer world, I have been feeling that this is, in part, my “purpose” – to write.  And it is something I love to do and it is something that I feel alive when I am doing.  When I am writing I can spend hours and it feels like minutes and when I leave I feel energized and inspired.

Yet, something that I have known in my heart for a while is that a soul purpose is bigger than just this life or this body. Writing is only an instrument for me to express my purpose.  And there are other expressions of that purpose as well.  Our soul purpose is much bigger than can be contained in any one task or activity.

So, even though I could say that writing is my purpose, I could just as easily say that my purpose is rubbing Peachy‘s belly.  When she is laying on my chest with her four feet flailing up in the air and I am loving her more than I can contain and rubbing her soft little puppy belly – that is me expressing love in the purest form I know.  So – that is my soul purpose.

If you looked at the whole thing energetically it’s like we’d just be little radiating suns sending light beams of Love out to all of life around us.  But we don’t look quite so silly.  We look like people with jobs and families and homes, so we express those light beams of Love in different ways – but essentially, that is what is going on. We are souls here loving.

Some people express Love in the form of inventing the light bulb or engineering a great bridge or composing a spectacular symphony.  Some people express Love in the form of being a really great boss or a very caring grandparent.

You see – a Soul having a purpose can’t be limited to what the circumstances of this particular life have turned out to be.

I am NOT a writer and you are NOT a singer. Suppose tomorrow my fingers fall off and your vocal cords dissolve and we can no longer write or sing. Would our soul purpose cease?

water-blue-sea-wavesWhat if a person feels that their soul purpose is to be a surfer – to merge with the ocean and the wave.  But then that person has a car accident or gets hit by a meteor and somehow they no longer have the physical ability to surf. That soul is still here and that soul still has a purpose.  So, perhaps that soul was expressing Love in the form of surfing and merging with the ocean and the wave up until that point. Now that soul will find a different way of expressing.  Perhaps that person will find that feeling of being One with the ocean and the wave inside themselves beyond the surfboard and then express their love for life around them by teaching about the Oneness that is inside all of us, regardless of our outer physicality.

If I attach so much importance to writing that I think it is WHO I am and it is what my soul is here to do, then what happens to me if my fingers fall off (and I lived in a world where voice recognition software didn’t exist)? And the last 16 years of my life that I spent NOT writing (or NOT petting Peachy‘s belly) were not some wasteland of meaninglessness and despair because I had not found my soul purpose yet.  I was expressing my purpose of loving in different ways.

In deed, we express our purpose of loving all along the way from the time we are infants until we are old and wrinkled. We express our purpose of loving in small ways all the time – so in a sense we don’t need to worry so much about FINDING our soul purpose or we will waste our lives in some kind of rat race. All the moments of love IN the rat race ARE our soul purpose, too.  You HAVE been living your soul purpose all along in lots of weird and wonderful ways.  Your soul is smart.  It’s not going to waste time.  It will express love in small and big ways no matter what.

Yes, it is good to find the things that you love to do, that you are passionate about and that make you feel fully alive. It is good to listen to your soul and follow what it is your soul is guiding you towards, to find the activities that your soul is most aligned with at this point in time. Doing that will help you to express your soul purpose in the fullest. Doing that will help you expand your purpose of Loving, it will help the Love to fill you on the deepest level and for you to express your love in the most important way you can.

However – life circumstances, opportunities and abilities change.  And to truly find one’s soul purpose, one has to focus on the Soul – that which does not change, that which is eternal and permanent:

LOVING, your soul purpose.

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Caroling with the Gandharvas

my-photos-food-fashion-photographyDid you know that it’s not just Love, Peace and Compassion that is common among different religions?

There are many descriptions of God, Holy Beings and the Heavenly Realm that are strikingly similar across faiths – the feeling and experience is the same, only the words are different.  One such experience is the Gandharvas, as they are known in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Gandharvas are heavenly beings who sing for the Gods.  In the Abrahamic religions these Angelic beings are called the Heavenly Host.  They are beings whose sole purpose is to sing honor and glory to God, who spend their entire eternal existence singing praises to the Divine.  I guess I shouldn’t say their sole purpose is singing – for in their singing they uplift, heal and glorify all of life.  In their singing, magic and mystery happens and I’m sure their one purpose of singing contains a multitude of purposes that I cannot even fathom.  But what I do know from experience is that they adore God and in their singing praises they magnify the Divine for the entire universe.  So, that is no small sole purpose.

AAAADH3MBXQAAAAAALGByAOne of the amazing and interesting facts about the Gandharvas (if you can call a trait of a heavenly being a fact), is that they love praising God so much that they are drawn to anywhere such praise is happening.  Wherever people gather to sing gratitude and love for the Divine, they gather also.  Loving God in song is like a magnet for the Heavenly Host – our voices lifted up to the Lord and our hearts loving God in unison pulls them straight to us.  This is one of the many reasons why I love going to church, or to chanting circles, or to Krishna Das concerts, and why this time of year I love to attend Christmas Caroling.

Last night I attended St Cyprian’s Carols and Lessons service.  Our sweet choir, joined by some extra singers from the Community choir, sang some beautiful versions of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘O Holy Night.’  The packed standing-room-only congregation joined them in singing ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ and ‘Angels we have heard on high.’  And as those Angels heard US, they flocked to the tiny church, as well.  (It made me wonder if THEY have any songs called ‘Humans we have heard on low.’)  Luckily, they don’t need chairs or even standing room, or the hundred-year-old wooden walls of the church would have burst.  I could feel them bringing their Angelic presence and their pure love for God to our gathering, adding the vibration of adoration to all of us as we sang.  During the Ave Maria, I closed my eyes and could feel my consciousness being lifted up effortlessly, almost as if I was on an elevator bringing us closer to God.  All I had to do was sing and open my heart.

jtciLast year I attended the Vero Beach Community Church Christmas Eve service.  The Vero Beach Community Church has a choir of at least 80 people and a grand organ that covers the whole front wall with a beautiful stained glass of Jesus with open arms in the middle.  In addition they have a children’s choir and as if that is not enough, they have an orchestra.  The large church has several services on Christmas Eve and all of them are packed.  As I stood as one of a thousand audience members, singing the carols with this human chorus of voices, I could feel the Angelic chorus of Gandharvas and Heavenly Host joining us in tier upon tier above us and all around us.  These magnificent beings joined us in singing glory to God and victory to Compassion and Peace in the victory of Christ, Alleluia!  My heart was filled with ecstatic joy as I felt this vibration of adoration and GOD not only filling my heart and every heart in the room, but radiating out for miles, lifting up the entire world into the victory of LOVE.

So, if you want to, over the next week or so, if you attend any holiday gatherings with people putting their love for God into song, tune into the other beings joining you.  Whether you consciously tune in or not, whether you can feel the angels singing with you or not, their vibration of love will lift you.  And if you choose, you can consciously join with the Heavenly Host or the Gandharvas in their purpose of lifting up the entire universe into the adoration of God.  It is not only a service to the world, it is fun.


 

To learn more about the Ghandarvas, check out The Ghandarva Experience from Tom Kenyon – it has an introduction with information followed by some truly beautiful and angelic music.  This is a CD that is meant to be experienced and used as a spiritual practice and it is very beautiful.

More Tom Kenyon

Love is a Wave and the Ocean

ocean-wave_157798“Loving another person is not separate from loving God. One is a single wave, the other is the ocean” ~ Deepak Chopra

I read this quote the other day and it struck me as very true.  Not only that, but it applies to loving people with four furry paws, too.

Yes, my Peachy is a person.  She is my person.  And loving her brings not only joy but also healing and a deeper connection to life and to God.

I wrote about how Peachy Keen is a force of Love in the world – a Light Warrior.  And I wrote about how Peachy is also a teacher of living life to the fullest.  But this post is about my own internal meditations of love inspired by my little furry friend.

Every day and throughout the day, my heart focuses on Love.  My heart, as the center of my being, resonates with the vibration of Love every time I look at Peachy.  I internally meditate on Love every time I even think of Peachy, even as I sit at my desk at work.  I also sit anIMG_0427d close my eyes or gaze upon a picture on my altar in more “formal” meditation and I can absolutely feel how much more easily I can slip into a focus of loving God from all the time I have spent in my day loving Peachy.

You see, love is love.  Love is love is love is God is love.

Just as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, if you are putting love into what you are doing, then you are in essence focusing on God – God is Love, so focusing on Love is focusing on God.  The same is true for any form of love.

If I am loving Peachy, my heart is vibrating in a state of love.  If I am loving Peachy, my heart and my body are in a state of positive resonance and I am moving in the direction of healing.  If I am loving Peachy, my heart is open and I am open to receive love from life all around me and from God.  If I am loving Peachy, I am lifting my consciousness up into the feeling of Love and that feeling of Love connects me directly to God.

loving-kidsA sweet friend of mine, who is leaving tomorrow to see his guru for the first time in 11 years, said last night that it doesn’t feel like it’s been 11 years because he has had his two sons and the love he feels for them is the same as the love he has for his guru, the love he has for God.  My heart was really touched as he spoke this, because I could feel that continuum of love that is the wave and the ocean of God.

In fact, this is precisely why God sent us gurus and saints and little baby Jesus.  I suspect this is also why God gave us cute little puppies.

Sometimes it is too far of a stretch for us to love GOD.  The ocean of God is so vast, how do we connect?  I am a drop of water, how do I love the ocean?  How can we know how to love something so perfect and mysterious?  How can our little hearts love something bigger than the universe?  So, God gave us Her waves to love.  The waves are not as vast, but just as beautiful, and the waves are something our hearts can open up to embrace.

Years ago I heard an explanation of the Christ Consciousness that pertains simply to consciousness, not to one religion or another.  I don’t even remember where I heard this explanation but it stuck with me.  You see, the “fall of man” wasn’t really about evil or us doing something terrible, it was just a fall into separation.  It’s just that we lost touch with our Divine Selves, we forgot about our oneness with God and were in a sense “lost” (though if God is holding us at all times we can’t ever really be lost, but we can feel like we are lost).

Jesu KrishnaFrom this state of forgetfulness, it was too large a leap for us to get connected to God again.  God Consciousness is PERFECT.  Everything is perfect in God Consciousness and there IS no separation, there IS no suffering, there IS no pain – so how can we get out of the suffering that feels so real to us and go directly to the perfection of God?  So, God created Christ Consciousness as a bridge.  The Christ Consciousness is One with the perfection and the absolute Love of God, but is also connected to the apparent suffering of humanity and reaches out to us in our state of forgetfulness with compassion.  The Christ Consciousness is a form of God’s Love that we could see and accept and open up to in our state of fallen consciousness.  And once we are open to the Love, the Christ can lift us back again into our connection with the perfection of God.

It is the birth of this Christ Consciousness that I contemplate and celebrate every year at Christmas.  For God so loved the world, that She gave us the Christ Consciousness in the form of Jesus, Krishna, Mohammed, Buddha, Quan Yin, Rama and yes, cute little puppies.  It is this connection to God’s Love that I see every time Peachy wags her little tail at me. It is this love of God and guru that my friend has seen every time he has looked at his sons for the last 11 years. It is the love of God that we experience whenever we love our neighbor as our Self.

20141209_215756_HDRThe feeling I have in my heart when I love God is the same feeling I have when I love my sisters or my Peachy and the love flows seamlessly back and forth in either direction.  When I look at Peachy with her furry little 7 pound body that breathes and beats and runs around with her nimble little jazz paws, I am struck by what a miracle she is.  Her sweet puppy eyes that look at me with that puppy love soul opens me up inside.  Feeling my love for Peachy flows right into feeling my love for God.  Feeling Peachy’s love for me reminds me of God’s love for me.  I feel like God created her as a gift personally for me, God’s love manifest as a cuddly little wave in the ocean just for my tiny soul.

Sometimes it is easier to love a single wave than to love the whole ocean.  Yet the wave is not separate from the ocean, and the entire ocean is loving us in each wave.