Jai Ram He Shall Reign Forever Alleluia

angelic-hostThe other day I was listening to Handel’s Messiah Alleluia chorus while driving back to work from the dentist.  It was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – the men and women alternating singing the words “And He shall reign forever and ever.  Alleluia, Alleluia.  Lord of Lords!  King of Kings!  Alleluia, Alleluia!”

I had it on repeat and the drive from dentist to work afforded me the opportunity to sing along 3 and 1/2 times. I was not only singing, but fully participating with the truth of the words.  I had it blaring, full volume.  I mean, I was rocking out like it was Springsteen or Bon Jovi – windows down, sun shining, wind through my hair, singing at the top of my lungs and waving my one hand in the air, reaching up to heaven (other hand on the steering wheel).

Here it is – but before you click play just be sure you are in a private place where you can sing and wave your arms about (at least one of them).

As I was singing the awe-inspiring and somewhat repetitive chorus it struck me that it IS a repetitive declaration of God’s victory.  I realized that singing Handel’s Messiah is much like chanting “Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.”  That is sanskrit for “Glory to God, Victory to God, Victory to God”  It is sanskrit for “And He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Dipawali-Special-1And, much like when I chant Jai Ram, as I was singing “And He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia” over and over again I could feel my heart’s deepest yearning and prayer for God to be victorious in our world, for God’s Love and Peace to reign in our day-to-day world forever and ever, for God’s compassion and justice to be the common place way of everyday business.

In those 15 and 3/4 minutes as I was driving back to work, I felt the place in my heart that deeply knows that God’s Love and God’s Will are one and the same – that all He wants for us is for all of us to live here in harmony and happiness as one human family.  As the song says, “the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!”  Each time I repeated the same phrase, the feeling of God’s victory grew stronger in my chest.

0b5cd4918a1a1c24d4d92646037d2fb9And just as when I chant the Sri Ram Jai Ram, I could feel that yearning and chanting for God to be victorious happening inside of me.  They say that changing the world starts with changing yourself, and the same is true for chanting.  As I was repeating the phrase “And He shall reign forever and ever” I was praying fervently for Christ to reign inside my own self.  I was yearning with all the burning desire of my soul for God to be victorious in me – for God to be victorious in my life, in my thoughts and in my actions, for my heart to be an instrument for God’s victory in the world.

As I parked my car outside of my office building, I rolled the windows up, turned the engine off, wiped the tears from my cheeks, took a deep breath, thanked God for the rogue renunciation of my every day life and went into work with God’s victory ringing inside of me.

So, in this season and all seasons, whether we are singing ‘Alleluia,’ ‘Jai Ram,’ ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth and let it start with me,’ we are all singing the one song of Victory to God.

Merry Christmas, Jai Ram, He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia!

5 Stitches to the Inch and Love Every One

beautiful-tropical-sailboatMy brother in-law’s mother, Nanny Annie, is over from England for Christmas. In my one sister’s kitchen she is cutting my other sister’s hair and talking about how her husband is excellent at sewing (contrary to general gender stereotypes). He used to sew sails for sailboats for a living. When he was an apprentice, the master sail-maker used to say to all the young lads, “5 stitches to the inch and love every one.”

The old master sail-maker was tuned into the same thing that Mother Teresa was when she said “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.”  This same inner wisdom has been taught by bakers, chefs, artists, carpenters, landscapers, pediatricians, veterinarians and milliners.  Masters of all trades have taught their apprentices to put love into their craft for hundreds of years.

Love is the magic ingredient that makes whatever we are doing a part of a better world.  If we put love into every stitch, that love is anchored in that sail and that love moves that sailboat and that love travels out across the world on the wind.  And, it gives the young apprentice sail-maker a meditation of love to focus on inside his own mind and heart as he sews for hours every day.  It transforms the young sail-maker into a more loving human being, a kinder husband and father, a better neighbor and a more compassionate citizen of the world.

gorgeous-good-color-small1This is how putting love into sewing sails, baking cakes, building houses, planting trees and making hats is transforming the world.

In the East this is taught as Karma Yoga.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga is described as the path of Action – the path of putting your love for God into everything you do.  Whether you are sewing sails or cooking dinner, typing up a report at work, mailing a package to a friend for Christmas or cleaning your bathroom – putting love into it is a way to make it a meditation, a Yoga, a method of gaining Union with the Divine.

This can be consciously done as Karma Yoga by focusing on our love for God and offering all our actions to the Divine.  Or it can be done simply by putting Love into what we do, sewing a sail as a meditation on Love, and God is Love, so it’s still a meditation on God.  See how God pulled another tricky move there.

Not only does putting love into everything we do make the world a better place, but it also makes us happier.  The love we feel in our hearts becomes the reward of our labor and the stuff of our life.  We begin to live here a little more as our souls – as the love we are focusing upon.  And if we don’t win the cake bake-off or the hat best-in-show, we don’t take it so hard because we still won the love in our hearts – and that we get to keep forever.

Amma 11On the one day I spent at Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, one of her students read a satsang he had written about karma yoga.  He talked about how doing everything with love for God transforms us and offering everything to God frees us from our ego attachments.  He said, if we offer everything to God, then our success is God’s Grace and our failure is God’s Will.  So we don’t let our successes inflate our ego identification and separate us from the love of unity, and we don’t let our failures deflate our ego self-worth and separate us from the love of unity.

I quoted that satsang once in a Christian Bible study class at a fairly conservative church, not giving credit to Amma or the Bhagavad Gita.  Everyone thought my stealth Karma Yoga reference was beautiful and inspiring and everyone agreed.  It is the universal truth that transcends not only religions but trades and crafts and professions.

So whether you’re a Christian or a Hindu, a musician or janitor, an engineer or a sail-maker – to increase your happiness, reduce your ego suffering and make the world a better place, just remember what Ammachi, Mother Teresa and the old master sail-maker said to his apprentice: “5 stitches to the inch, and love every one.”

Rainbow Regatta by Lisa Lorenz

Rainbow Regatta by Lisa Lorenz

The Essence of Merry Christmas and Goodwill to ALL

Christmas-Card-at-www.best-christmas.net_1In this time of Christmas I am thinking a lot about Christ.  Of course, I tend to think about Christ a lot anyways, but what I mean is that I’m thinking a lot about how Christ’s love applies to all of humanity.  I briefly wrote in my post about Christmas Carols how I believe that the Christ Consciousness of love, compassion and miracles that Jesus embodied and taught is not limited to Jesus the man or even to Christianity. So, that is the part of Christ I’ve been thinking about specifically.  And in this season of warmth, cheer and giving, of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, I so long for everyone to be open to receive LOVE in all its myriad and beautiful forms.

I’d say all in all, Christmas and the holidays brings out the best in us – our charity, compassion and generosity – but inevitably some humans will find something to fuss about. So this is also the time of year for arguments about religion, whether it is more right to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” and the supposed War on Christmas.  (I don’t think Christmas qualifies as an oppressed minority when every store, town center and neighborhood is decked out in massive amounts of Christmas lights and our whole socioeconomic consumer establishment gears up for the holiday with everything from sales to TV programming to “get it there by the 25th” shipping specials.)

And it’s from both sides of the spectrum.  There are the Christians who get outraged if the people greeting you at Macy’s say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and insist that Santa is Satan and we should just focus on Jesus.  And there are the atheists who insist that celebrating Christmas is against the constitution and Santa cannot be scientifically proven so he has no place in schools.

jesus-vs-santa-armwrestleMy sister is a really good photographer.  For her daughter’s school last year she took pictures of the kids with Santa as they entered into the annual Holiday fundraiser and nearly all the children participated and she helped raise valuable funds for their education.  This year someone made a big fuss about how Santa is not what Christmas is about and Santa shouldn’t be allowed in the main hall because Santa violated their religious rights.  So my sister and the kindly volunteer Santa Claus were relegated to some distant classroom away from the main event and raised one third of the money they did last year.  And it’s silly.  Why waste an opportunity for happiness and charity?  What is more religious about that?

I really don’t think it matters if you say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas – what matters is simply the amount of love you say it with.  And it’s silly for anyone to get offended when given a greeting of love simply because some word doesn’t fit into your own personal list of preferred words.  If someone were to smile and give me a sweet seasonal greeting I wouldn’t care if they wished me a Happy Hanukkah, a Joyous Kwanza, a Sweet Solstice, a Merry Christmas or just the generic humanistic Have a Good Day.  As long as we are spreading more love in the world – all the better.

christmasYou see, the Consciousness of love, peace and compassion that is in all the Christmas Carols and Santa movies is the same underlying consciousness that has been at the heart of humanity since before any of the religions were even dreamed up.  And really, if you just let go of the words and what your mind thinks about them and instead just focus on the feeling or the Presence behind the words, then we’ll realize that we’re all talking about the same Presence.  A few days ago I wrote about how sometimes religious words can be associated with religious divisiveness and how we need to reprogram our subconscious minds to get beyond words and into the feeling self.  I know this was true for me and my own associations with the words of the Christian language.

In my teens and early twenties I rejected Christianity.  I saw a lot of bickering, prejudice and narrow-mindedness in the churches that were around me growing up and it didn’t feel right to me, so I closed myself off to that part of God.  Sure, I found Eastern religions, meditation, bhakti yoga and many ways to connect with God, but I was limiting how God could love me.  I was saying to God – no, I don’t want your love in the form of the Christ, I don’t want your love through Jesus or even from Christians – I only want your love through sanskrit chants and Tibetan mantras.

Then one day 16 years ago, my sister was visiting me in Asheville for the weekend.  We went to the Biltmore House (talk about a photographer’s dream – she must have taken 100 pictures in the gardens alone).  Afterwards we went to Biltmore Village, a collection of quaint shops outside of the estate surrounding the church the Vanderbilts built.  The church was really beautiful and reminded us of churches in Sweden.  The docent told us the music was really good and that the organ is one of the finest on the east coast, so my sister said she’d really like to go the next morning.

I would have never thought to go to a Christian church on my own.  But since my sister wanted to go, I said ok.  Who doesn’t like some nice music?  So, on Sunday morning I went to church for the first time in a very long time.

all souls churchThe church in the Biltmore village is Episcopalian (incidentally called “All Souls Cathedral”) and so the service was traditional with the reading of the bible and the singing of hymns.  I was standing in the pew with the hymnal in my hands singing and I started reading the actual meaning of the words of the hymn.  I can’t remember which hymn it was specifically, but it was about the Light of the Holy Spirit coming down and entering into our hearts like a flame – it was about us making room to have the Christ Light dwell in our hearts forever.

I was amazed.  I was astounded.  My heart started expanding and breaking.  This was real.  I had experienced this very thing in meditation.  I had felt the Light of God coming down and entering into my heart like a flame.  For years I had been working to make room in my heart for God’s Light to dwell there forever.  Whatever old monk or Christian musician who had written this hymn hundreds of years ago had the same experiences that I was having as I was chanting the sanskrit names of God and meditating on the compassion of the Buddha!

I wanted to shout out to everyone in the church who were all calmly singing these words – “This is real!  Oh my God!  Christ and the Holy Spirit are real!”  Instead I just let my heart flow over and tears rolled down my cheeks as I could feel Christ and the Holy Spirit coming down and filling my heart.  It was something I had felt before, I just had used different words.  But here I was in a Christian church, singing a Christian hymn about the truth of God.

After that Sunday I started going to this sweet Episcopal church every Sunday.  Not only that, I went to the Tuesday morning services as well.  I went to every service they had, tears flowing from my heart every time.  I found so many truths about God in the words of the hymns, the psalms and the readings.  I found so much inspiration for my spiritual journey in the sermons.  And watching so many people going up for communionmomma3 to become One with the Body of Christ made my heart burn in my chest with exquisite beauty.

And the people there were so loving and accepting.  They had an openly gay deacon who was a major supporter of the local gay and lesbian community.  The pastors were open to all religions and could talk to me about books by Sogyal Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama and Shakti Gawain.  I had a nose ring and tattoos and I thought the congregation would judge me – but one Tuesday morning after the healing service a sweet Southern white haired lady asked me what the tattoo on my left arm meant and I told her “It’s the Hindu chant Om Namaha Shivaya – it means the God Presence in me honors the God Presence in you.”  She nodded and said, “That’s right on!  And that’s real pretty.”

I realized that I had been the one who was prejudiced.  In all my New Age spiritual focus on loving the world, I had been holding on to all kinds of judgments and attitudes, thinking that there should be respect for all religions, but those Christians just didn’t get it.  Yet God was loving the world through Christ and the Holy Spirit for hundreds and hundreds of years but I dismissed it all.  Wow – I was the one who wasn’t getting it.

But now I AM getting it!  I’m getting God’s love every which way!  I am not limiting how God can love me.  I am not limiting God to the shape of my own mind.  If God wants to love me through Hare Krishna or Alleluia or As-salamu alaykum or Merry Christmas, I say YES!

No matter what your personal beliefs are, why not just receive the love?  Why be all bah-humbug because the person giving you the love says either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” depending on what side of the bah-humbug you fall on.

If someone says “Ola” or “Bonjour” or “Guten Tag” – why get upset if it’s not your particular language.  Just smile and say hello back.  Whether you personally prefer Merry Christmas or Hare Krishna, in essence it means the same thing. So, allow LOVE to enter your heart through baby Jesus, jolly old Santa,the star of Bethlehem, the star of David, the Angels on High, Frosty the Snowman, the generic Holiday Party at work or the all-female living nativity scene featuring the Three Wise Women!

There are no limits to the ways that God can love us if we just say Yes.  Just let go of the mental arguments and Believe in Love, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL!

dove-christmas-decoration-peace-on-earth_140479322355

The Implementation of Dumb Ideas

RENUZIT-500x247In this week’s silly post I’d like to talk about an ad currently running on Hulu for a brand of air-fresheners.  Aside from the fact that air-fresheners contain numerous toxic chemicals that can cause everything from reduced sperm counts to cancer, the ad is really stupid.  It has hunky men carrying air-fresheners in slo-mo, winking at the camera seductively from each room of a house – one in the kitchen, another in the living room and yet another sexy young thing in the bedroom.  The ad goes on to say that while having a different man in every room might be a fantasy, you can in fact have a different toxic scent in each room.

First of all, what woman fantasizes about having a man in every room?  That sounds terrible.  Second of all, the campaign is so ridiculous it makes me want to NOT buy that air freshener, even if I wanted to poison myself with benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, and phthalates. 

1075545_562888983757997_1303988084_oThe thing that gets me about really really bad advertising is that there are so many people involved in the process of actually getting it on TV.  First there are a number of people at the ad agency who come up with the bad idea, then their creative team does a pitch to a company, then the company sends the proposal up the chain of command and who knows how many people sign off on the concept and budget.  Then there are graphic artists, writers, producers, casting agents, actors, make up artists, cameramen, boom mic operators and even key grips, whatever the heck they do.  It must be at least 100 people who take part in producing a really really bad ad.  And nowhere along the line did someone say – STOP.

The same is true for some of the reality TV programming of today.  There are food shows about deep-fried-mac-n-cheese-hamburger-loaf. There are married couples flipping houses and arguing over every remodeling decision along the way.  There are housewives arguing in virtually every metropolitan area of the United States.  There are naked people who are either afraid or shopping or dating, or a combination of all of the above – of course arguing more or less the whole time. There are even horrific things like a man being eaten alive by a snake in some kind of snake-digestive-juice-resistant suit.

In all of these TV shows there are countless people who never say – wait, this is dumb, let’s not do this.

Thirteen Reality 2This ad for an apparently intelligent TV station is actually quite funny and points to the state of our TV entertainment.  I know there are quite a few really good shows out there, also.  There has even been some God centered shows that come and go, like ‘Joan of Arcadia,’ ‘Eli Stone.’ or the awesome good kicks evil’s butt ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’  But sometimes I look at some of the truly dumb ideas that actually manifest themselves as ads and TV shows and I wonder.

I guess it’s kind of like other really dumb ideas, like segregation or women not having the right to vote.  For a long time, they were just accepted and all the boom mic operators and key grips of life didn’t feel it was their place to say anything even if they thought it was a terrible idea.  It took people like Martin Luther King and Susan susan-b-anthony-quote1-300x200B. Anthony to speak up and say – STOP!  Then enough people joined them and said – yeah, I think it’s really dumb, too.  And then the Civil Rights Act and 19th Amendment could happen.

So, I guess, if the awful toxic air-freshener ad has any merit, it is to remind us to speak up against dumb ideas!  Why is racism and sexism still showing up in so many ways in our ads and TV programming and everywhere else in our society?  Why should gay or lesbian human beings have any less rights than any other human being?  How could such a bad idea still even be a thing?  Let’s just stop implementing all these dumb ideas.


hrc-logoPlease consider supporting the Human Rights Campaign – to speak up for equal rights for the LGBT community.

Or support any of the fine organizations listed on the Get Involved page who are working towards ending dumb ideas.

Don’t Think Green OR the Secret to Immortality

RadiallyDon’t think green.

Did it work?  Or did your mind immediately flash on the color green even though you specifically told it not to?

The thing is, it flashed on green specifically because you told it not to.  It’s not being rebellious.  Your mind is not being a teenager or a terrible two.  It would have also flashed on green if you had asked it very nicely, “Please think green.”

The subconscious mind does not understand negatives.  It only hears whatever it is the words ARE – i.e. green.  That is why, if you’re trying to calm yourself down saying “Don’t be afraid, don’t freak out,” your subconscious hears “be afraid, freak out.”  That is why in those situations it’s better to use positive language, such as “Just relax, breathe.”  Can you feel how much more effective that is?  Even reading the words feels more relaxing.

It’s kind of like the ads I put on my blog a few weeks ago.  There is a computer program that is designed to automatically detect reoccurring words and place ads that are similar to the content of the blog, so that the ads might be of interest to the people reading the blog.  Makes sense.  However, it’s kind of like the subconscious mind.  Somewhere there is a computer brain that is processing the words but not understanding negatives, satire or even unity.  I noticed once I posted about how engagement rings are a scam, ads for brilliant-earth-antiquediamond rings started popping up.  That is ok, they are for some earth friendly jewelry company, not the evil De Beers, and at least they have pretty pictures.  But even worse, when I first put the ads on, the program started picking up on all the references to Jesus, Christianity and Islam and there were all these ads about converting to one religion or another and about how this prophet or that savior is the only way.  This is the exact opposite of what I stand for and what I write about!  So, I had to go in and block those ads, in a sense reprogramming the subconscious computer brain to not associate religious words with religious division.

This is what we need to do with our own minds.  It is, however, a little more tricky.  It’s not as easy as just clicking on the “block” button.  But this is where we train ourselves to focus on what we DO want, instead of what we DON’T want.  I.e. – if wanting to manifest a new job, make a list of characteristics you want in the job, like ‘flexible hours, good benefits, at least X/hour’ etc.  If you make a list of what you don’t want, like ‘no jerk for a boss, no crappy pay, no awful hours’ then you’re more likely to get a job with at least some of those crappy characteristics.

This is the basis of such personal development systems as Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Est and the Forum.  Big name self-help guru Tony Robbins uses elements of NLP in his success seminars and the practice of affirmations and positive thinking have seeped into our popular culture.  And there is something to be said for being conscious of how we use our words and what it points to in our subconscious mind.  However, there is more to it than just words.

NLP-BubblesIn general, I believe that everything should be done in moderation, even moderation.  And NLP can get a little extreme at times.  I’ve had friends get so into it that they tried to eradicate ALL “negative” words from their speech.  They would twist and turn and speak in all kinds of round about ways simply to avoid saying the word “not.”  Back in my Asheville days I worked at a massage school and one day when I answered the phone, it was one of the assistant instructors essentially calling in sick – but instead of saying he wasn’t feeling well and he would not be coming in to work he said “I am in the process of healing and I am choosing other than to come to work today.”  That’s just silly.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with positive language, NLP or affirmations is that the only reason we are using words at all is to relate to the FEELING we have inside.  It is the FEELING of our hearts that creates our reality – that creates us being happy or sad or confident or insecure or scared or relaxed.  The words themselves don’t mean anything without the feeling behind them.  You can use all the positive words you want but if you still feel negative and grumpy inside, you won’t create a positive outcome. Anyone who has written affirmations on the mirror to no avail knows that.

I saw this Gregg Braden video (which I have on my Meditation and World Peace page) where he talked about a friend that had all these post-it notes all over his house saying “I am attracting a wonderful loving woman into my life” and the like.  He asked his friend if he was really attracting a wonderful woman and his friend immediately responded “Of course not, no wonderful woman would want to be with me.”  So, even though he had all the words plastered all over his house and even in his car, his underlying feeling about himself had not changed.

In fact, this is how affirmations can misfire.  People think that simply by putting up post-it’s they can change, but what they don’t realize is sometimes those post-it’s just get the subconscious mind to sass-mouth the post-it and it aggravates the negative feeling even more.  Every time that guy looks at his post-it’s about a wonderful woman, instead of it ee85e279ff1a413cf53822c0804ac0c9having the intended effect, his subconscious mind says “are you kidding? she would never be with someone like you,” magnifying his negative subconscious feelings and working against him.  Instead of using post-it’s with words on them, it is much more useful have post-it’s reminding you to sit for a few minutes and focus on the FEELING you want to create.  Instead of calling in and saying you are choosing other than to come into work today, just call in sick like a normal person and then spend some time resting in bed focusing on the feeling of being healthy.

Before we get too nit-picky about what words we use and run around yelling “cancel clear!” every time we say a negative word, as if it’s a cosmic delete button to ward off accidental manifestations of “not,” just breath and remember it’s more about the state of our feeling self.  Our manifestation consciousness is not so much centered in our verbal mind, it is centered in our feeling heart.

Now, here is where we get to the Secret of Immortality.  I know you’ve been waiting for that.

The Tom Robbins book ‘Jitterbug Perfume’ is about all manner of people searching for the Secret to Immortality.  Some people believe it is in some extraordinary combination of scents to be found in a blue perfume bottle embossed with the image of a goat-horned god.  There are others in the book, however, that believe the Secret to Immortality lies in completely eradicating any and all words or idioms involving death or dying in our language.  These people believe that every time we say “I was scared to death” or “that is so funny it just kills me” that we are creating our own eventual demise.  They are part of a society that is aiming to neuro-linguistically re-program our biology from death itself.

Back to Godhead - Volume 12, Number 10 - 1977

Journey of the Soul through life, death and reincarnation.

However, I posit that the Secret to Immortality is not in NLP or ‘never say die,’ it is in FEELING that you are an eternal soul.  Immortality is not only saying the words “I am a soul” or even believing that you are a soul who will live forever.  Those are important steps.  Immortality is in feeling that you are an eternal soul.  It is about internally identifying as a soul and experiencing your every day life with that knowingness as the ground of your being.  Immortality is in even your subconscious mind knowing and accepting that your consciousness is timeless.

As an example, if someone were to ask me, ‘have you ever been to Peru?,’  I would think – not with this body in this lifetime, but I’m sure I’ve been there at some point.  The “I” is my soul.  Of course, I’m not obnoxious and I simply reply like a normal person, answering the question in the way it was intended – ‘No, I have not been to Peru.’  The person wasn’t asking for a treatise on immortality and past life remembrances.  They just want to tell me about a cool hotel they discovered in case I ever go there.

So, whether you are wanting to get over a cold, manifest a wonderful woman or discover the Secret to Immortality – remember that you can use positive language, verbal reminders and post-it notes, but the essential part is in how you feel.  Do you feel that your immune system is strong and capable of healing your body quickly?  Do you feel that you are a good loving person who deserves to have a wonderful loving woman in your life?  Do you feel that you are an eternal soul and that the consciousness of all time is available to you here and now?

eternal soul portraitAnd as in all things, it’s important to remember that Divine Grace supersedes it all.  If you don’t want to worry too much about what words you use or what your subconscious mind is doing – just pray for Grace.  No matter what you are wanting to manifest, not enough can be said for praying with full feeling in humility and adoration. Loving God will take care of most things.

Stress Reduction – God’s Secret Weapon

ilovemy-crm-logo - CopyI recently taught a 6 week meditation class for stress reduction.  I work at a fairly conservative small college and this past quarter the focus of the staff Wellness program has been on reducing stress for health benefits.  The Wellness program is something the college has for its faculty and staff in order to get better rates from our insurance company.  I guess they figure if the employees receive support and education around health there will be less claims – less by-pass surgeries and long-term diabetes treatments to pay for.  So, basically – it comes down to money.  In a strange twist of fate, in order to save a corporate-greed-capitalist-America insurance company money, I was paid to teach meditation to my co-workers during our lunch hour on Fridays.

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Or is it a twist of fate?  Maybe it is just fate straight up.  Maybe it is exactly as God planned.

My friend Lord Flea sent me an article from the New York Times – How to Find a Job With Meditation and Mindfulness.  It is about a meditation studio craze in New York where Manhattanites are flocking to invite-only meditation studios to meditate and network with investors and start-up entrepreneurs. The article states how this idea came to New York from San Francisco and Wisdom 2.0 – a conference bringing together leaders from the Silicon Valley tech giants with experts in yoga, mindfulness and meditation.  Their goal is “to live with greater wisdom, purpose, and meaning, while using technology in ways that create a more open and healthy culture.”  This is an organization that I first heard of from my friend in San Francisco, Janardhan Chodagam, a very successful software engineer who realized that “a life of fulfillment trumps a life of achievement.”  When I met him he had left the industry to teach meditation with the Brama Kumaris full time and was doing an introduction to Raja Yoga for overworked business professionals in the Bay Area.

Teza, or Lord Flea, is one of my closest spiritual friends, a true lover of God and believer in the power of Love.  Yet, when she started meditating decades ago, she wasn’t looking for God. She heard a talk about how Transcendental Meditation made a person more efficient, productive and creative – and although she started meditation for productivity, she ended up on a lifelong spiritual path.

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Deepak Chopra & Dr. Oz Meditating to lose weight

Years ago I also heard a story of a woman from Brooklyn.  She was your run-of-the-mill Brooklyn housewife and she saw a sign in the window of a yoga studio advertising a certain breathing technique to help you lose weight.  She took the class and the teacher recommended practicing the technique for 10 minutes a day.  She figured if she did the breathing technique for longer, she would lose more weight.  Before she knew it, she was meditating for hours a day and having all kinds of spiritual experiences.  She went to India to meet her teacher and wound up dedicating her life to God, founding an ashram and a charitable organization that does work in the US, India and Uganda.  All because she wanted to lose some weight.

You see, I think that God is secretly using all these “lose weight” and “increase productivity” and “reduce stress” tag lines to help forward the evolution of human consciousness on earth.  It doesn’t matter why we start on a spiritual path.  It doesn’t matter how we get focused on love, peace and a higher way of life.  It doesn’t matter if we expand our consciousness initially because we want to network and find spiritually centered investors for our new fashion start up.  It doesn’t matter if we open our hearts to compassion because we downloaded a meditation app from 1 Giant Mind (who I talk a bit more about on the Meditation Resources page).

biz man med - CopySome people might see New York’s meditation/networking clubs as a crass capitalist sacrilege.  But I rejoice in ALL the wonderful new ways God is finding to bring people to the center of their being.  How amazing that so many business tycoons are breathing in relaxation and breathing out peace.  How glorious that so many doctors are prescribing mindfulness meditation to lower blood pressure.  I can’t even begin to count how many people are being transformed into better, more loving human beings simply by beginning the practice of meditation for any reason whatsoever.  I can’t imagine the impact all these success workshops and health seminars are having on our collective consciousness.

God loves us.  God is constantly looking for any way at all to bring Her children home to more love, peace and happiness.  She sends prophets and saints.  She gives us nature and the miracle of sunsets.  She gives us music and poetry and all the creative expressions of the human soul.  And She gives us Wellness program stress reduction meditation classes.  People get into meditation for all kinds of reasons – blood pressure, weight loss, productivity and success.  God uses all kinds of sneaky ways to aid in the evolution of human consciousness.

I don’t know if you could really say that God has a weapon of any kind.  I know all kinds of scriptures depict God as smiting and drowning and killing all kinds of peoples, but I really think that if there is anything that God is NOT capable of doing, it would be to cause harm.  But, I guess in the old spiritual battlefield of inner decision between good and evil, God can kick some ass.  And in that arena, stress reduction is Her secret weapon.


Join the Consciousness Evolution with Inner Action & Meditation How-to’s

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Stand on One Leg and LOVE! the Rest is Commentary

456501701A few weeks ago in church we had a reading from Matthew’s gospel where a lawyer asks Jesus “Which commandment is the first of all?”  And Jesus replied:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In Father Ted’s sermon, he also told us of a Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus who was famous for a similar answer to a trick question.  Asked if he could recite the entire Torah while standing on one leg, he stood on one leg and said, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to others.  That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

In Islam, ‘compassion’ is the most frequently occurring word in the Qur’an. Each of its 114 chapters, with the exception of the 9th, begins with the invocation ‘In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful…’piriformis-standing-lga

Love and Compassion are also central to Hinduism and the most important practice of ‘seeing the Self in the other’ (strikingly similar to ‘Love thy neighbor as thy Self’).

Daya or Compassion is a fundamental teaching of the Sikh religion, where it means ‘suffering in the suffering of all others’ and it is believed that Enlightenment cannot be reached through meditation alone but the spiritual seeker must also do good works towards their fellow humans.

Compassion is so important to Buddhists that they have been known to remove insects from the ground before putting up posts during construction, as to not harm any creature, however small.

Compassionate to even smaller creatures still, devout Jains sweep the path before them as they walk and wear masks as to not step on or breath in, thus inadvertently killing, any minute invisible insects.

How is it then that we have seen so much violence in the name of religion?  It is a very peculiar quirk of humans that we can have so many beautiful religions that all profess love and compassion as their central tenets, yet we use those religions to argue, discriminate, hate and at worst kill each other.

In my tradition of contradicting myself, I have two “buts” to that statement.

But, I don’t think i73032265t really is our different religions that drive us to those extremes of disunity, warfare and violence.  I think the conflict is really about something else altogether and religion is just used as an excuse.  The reasons for violence throughout history are such basic things as greed, land or power and instead of kings or emperors, or nowadays politicians, saying to their armies “I want that gold and that treasure in that land, let’s kill them for it” and just being honest about it, they say “Those heathens are doing the devil’s work, let’s go kill them.”  I guess they figured their citizens would be less likely to want to die just to feed their king’s coffers.

The second but is: But I think more and more, people are seeing the absurdity of this kind of religious disagreement about which way of practicing love and compassion is right.  We are finding the common ground that we all share.  In fact, I believe this call for unity, understanding, kindness and compassion among all peoples was actually central to many of the prophets, founders and sons of God who started these religions in the first place.  They themselves were trying to reform the baser human tendencies of greed and violence and taught instead LOVE.

The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus sitting down to dine with tax collectors, accepting the devotion of a prostitute (that was NOT Mary Magdalene, but that is the subject for another post), and of showing mercy and inclusion to gentiles of all sorts.

Flamingo_Web_For Muslims, at the heart of their faith is the principal of tawhid or oneness. This oneness has been described as that which dominates the mind in Islam, while the heart is intrinsically linked to the concept of compassion. “My Mercy encompasses all things” (Qur’an 7:156).  Islam sees love and compassion – the ability to feel with the other, as expressions of the interconnected oneness of all human beings, reflecting the oneness and unity of God.

The Muslim leader Badshah Khan, who waged nonviolent resistance for Indian independence alongside Gandhi has said:

“It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, huhabat – selfless service, faith and love…. My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion.”

This is why religious or spiritual figures from all different faiths and religions are often found saying “Love is my religion” or the like.  This is why I am an Everything.

This is also what Karen Armstrong discovered when she founded the Charter for Compassion.  The bottom line of virtually all religions is compassion – so let’s stop squabbling about the different nuances of compassion or who we believe said that compassion is most important or what name we use to refer to the All Compassionate One – and let’s start making COMPASSION a part of our every day life and all that we do.  Instead of worrying which prophet is the most right or  most godly about compassion, isn’t it more important to actually practice the compassion they all speak of?  That is what putting all our varying religions into Natrajaction actually looks like.  And that is what will bring about the Unity of God that all our prophets, saints and Holy Ones of all religions have taught in one way or another.  That is what we have always yearned for.

That is why I stand on one foot and say – Love!  The rest is commentary.


Please enjoy the inspiring Charter for Compassion video – and if you haven’t already, please sign the charter.

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

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

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

And I am so thankful I said yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you!  And Thank You!

Times Are A’Changin’ – or Are They?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Contradictions, Paradox and Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give Thanks & Take Thanksgiving Off

MD-HappyThanksgiving_11-2012Happy Thanksgiving.

I am going to take Thanksgiving Off.

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

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

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

Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Shanti


Grassroots efforts to Stop Thanksgiving Day Shopping

Boycott Black Thursday Facebook Page

 

 

Diamond Rings and Body Hair

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

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

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

Ok, so what about the body hair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faking it, Holiday movies and The Inside Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Interfaith Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10088-thanksgiving

Christmas Carols are REAL!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a whole new experience.

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

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

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

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

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

THE PEANUTS GANG REJOICES IN THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

The Divine Purpose of Selfishness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is pretty smart.

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

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

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

54612e3a3e0271fd3064720d_seva2I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

 

Is the Creation All An Illusion?

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

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

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

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

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

Thank you www.sanatansociety.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving the Mystery of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love god