Changing our Consciousness for Chocolate

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

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

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

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

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

The problem is, this happens with practically EVERYTHING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

humanLove

Y’All Means ALL or Universal Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Miracles Come in Many Forms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tnp_baby2_1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stand on One Leg and LOVE!  The Rest is Commentary

Grace v. Karma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

winter_morning_wallpaper

My Not-So-Secret Valentines

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

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

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

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

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

god-2Peachy love 2fr-rohr-franciscan

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

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

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

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

So, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy Joyous Love for God and from God AS God.

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

 

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

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

The distant blue hills praise you,

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

The bickering flycatchers praise you

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

 

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

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

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

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

 

Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

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

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

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

Thomas merton God shining through it