No Defense

I have literally sat down at the computer tonight without knowing at all what I would write about.  A few days ago I re-read The Four Agreements and I definitely want to touch on some of that in a post eventually, but not tonight.  What popped into my head after that was something I read in A Course in Miracles this week.  Here it is:

Truth needs no defense.

In this world of polarized viewpoints in so many aspects of our lives, but especially in Politics and Religion, this is something that if I can take down to my heart just might set me FREE!  I don’t need to argue why I believe what I believe.  I don’t need to attempt in any way shape or form to pull you to my side.  At the end of the day Truth stands whether we’re there with it or not.

Next time I start to argue my point of view, I’m going to ask myself why I need to do that.  If my ideas are so shaky that they need me huffing and puffing, then maybe I need to go within and ask to see the truth.

What I have decided is that when I get to a place, especially with Religion, where I can hear a different viewpoint and not feel attacked, then I have truly begun to live what I know.  In the end, what you know intellectually can only get you so far, it is only when you are changed by it that you know it is Truth.

Judgment Day

We’ve all heard the story before.  When you die, you’ll go up to the pearly gates and God (or somebody) will discuss your life with you.  You’ll look at the good deeds and bad as well as the various religious decisions you made.  At the end you’ll be given your sentence: Heaven or Hell.  OK, so I don’t know if this is how it really goes.  I suppose it’s in The Bible somewhere but I’ll admit to never actually reading about it, that I can remember.  I’m sure there is some variation of this story in each religion.  I mean without Judgment Day how in the world will we control the masses?  Of course I also think it has to be more than just an issue of control.  If so many people and organizations believe some version of it, then some version of it is probably true.

Today, I’m going to share with you my version.  Over the years I’ve read a lot of spiritual and woo-woo books that have helped me formulate this idea.  I do believe there is a Judgment Day, but the person doing the judging is us or rather the divine part of us.  I believe that before entering our bodies and lives we create a contract.  We have various challenges we must work through and qualities we must work with.  I think we make pacts with other souls to help us meet our goals.  If there is someone in your life who presses your buttons, you better believe it’s in their contract to do that.

With that being said I believe that when we die our souls leave our body and ascend to the other side (Heaven if you’d like).  Once there we are greeted by a soulmate-spirit guide, angel, or deceased loved one-who leads us to our life review.  During this life review we see and experience everything we did in our human life at a whole other level.  (Does the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes” ring a bell?)   We feel the pain we caused others as well as the joy.  We understand at a deep level what affect our decisions had on the world around us.

When the review is over we evaluate ourselves and how successful we were at achieving the goals set forth in our contract.  In some cases we may have reached the level intended and can ascend to the next Heavenly stage.  In other cases we see that we still have much to learn and after some rest we get started on planning another life on Earth-which some might consider Hell.

What I believe is that our souls are of God.  That is the image and likeness within us.  When we emerge into life it is God’s wish to experience the realm of humanity.  The devil we encounter in this human world is that of free will or ego.  It is the gift we are given by God to learn,  make choices, and live.  We cannot truly experience anything unless we have felt it’s polar opposite.  So we are both God (soul) and the Devil (ego, free will).

At the end of our life we will be judged, but not by any man in the sky.  We will experience and judge our own experiences, based on what God intended for us to give and take from this life.  The only Hell we can possibly experience is that of leaving Heaven and our limitless form to return to a body on Earth.

So, that’s my take on Judgment Day.  If it feels good to you take it as your own, if not please leave it behind and find what feels like truth to you.  We are all on our own paths and must search within ourselves for the answers to these questions.  This is just an answer that makes sense to me.

 

Renee’s Click

This is the second time Renee has written a “click” for me.  The first one was a fictionalized click. I introduced you to her last Wednesday so the only thing I’ll repeat here is her blog which you can find by clicking here.

I’m generally not the type to dwell on the past or even think too much about what’s happening at any one particular moment. I go with the flow and deal with things as they come, my mind quickly racing through ways to solve specific problems and come out on the other side with my life intact.

So when Leslee asked me last week to write a Click Story for her blog, it wasn’t easy to come up with an idea. I racked my brain trying to think of a moment in my life where I suddenly realized something profound, a moment that maybe changed my life – for good or bad. I couldn’t think of anything for a couple of days.

And then it came to me … the perfect “Click” moment for a blog about finding one’s spiritual path. In fact, there are two of them and they are both connected, so I chose to write for Leslee about the moments I discovered who I am as a spiritual being, what I believe and why.

My mother grew up Catholic and my father Jewish. Neither was or is especially religious, but I learned about Jesus and heaven and hell and all of those things. We lit Chanukah candles and exchanged Christmas presents under a decorated tree. I even went to church or synagogue every once in a while. In fact, I still do all of those things, but they have different meaning for me now.

Like many, I grew up with a belief that there was a God in heaven and He was a man and that all things Judeo-Christian were, without question, the Truth. It’s in our American culture, so unless a person either thinks more profoundly than a teenager usually does or is brought up in a home with an alternate religion, one tends to blindly accept these things.

I had friends who were Hindu or Buddhist, but never really thought much about that. Religion was religion. My mother told me once that no matter what religion a person is, there is still only one God and everyone worships Him in his or her own way.

But then I grew up. I went to college. I started thinking more deeply.

I took astronomy.

To pass my class, I had to go to the community college’s observatory a few times and look out at the heavens and write a report about what I saw. I went at a time when a local astronomy club met so they could help me with using the telescope: the general mechanics as well as finding specific stars, asteroids, comets, the moon, whatever.

As I peered through the telescope at the millions – billions! – of stars and planets in the sky, I had an epiphany (a Click moment): we are not alone in this universe.

I’m not a person who necessarily believes extraterrestrials visit Earth and probe people. I’m not sure it’s possible to ever travel that distance in a lifetime. But I do know that in a space as large and endless as this universe is, there’s no way that we are all there is.

When one looks at most religions, especially Judeo-Christian religions, they are very Earth-centered. God created the Earth and all the beings on it and he watches to make sure we don’t swear or have sex with someone to whom we aren’t married. And if we mess up a little bit, fire and brimstone await us in hell. But why, with all that’s out there, does He care about those things? He must have more important things to worry about, right?

And then I started thinking about how life comes to be. No man or woman alone can create a child. Some asexual organisms can, but with both male and female anatomy only. Even with cloning and in-vitro fertilization, one needs male and female elements. So how can one, single, male god create so much life without a feminine partner? The laws of Nature are against that scenario. Therefore, in my reasoning, if there is a god, there must also be a goddess.

And that was the moment I realized I am not Christian and I don’t want to be. It’s a lovely religion at its most pure, but to me, there isn’t much sense to it. There’s some, but as a whole it’s not something I can buy into.

But what now? I’m not Christian or Jewish. I’m not Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu. What am I?

It would be several years before I’d have that answer, my second Click moment. It came about two months ago when, out of curiosity, I attended a gathering of pagans. We went around the room introducing ourselves and stating what pagan path we each were on.

I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t really know enough to say. I still don’t know for sure, but one man’s answer hit me hard where it counts. He said, “I am a religious eclectic.”

And that is exactly what I am.

I Am The Way

The following post is written in response to a request from a friend.

I think that at our core we all have the same purpose in this life.  We know we have a purpose and we think it’s a number of things.  We go to school, get training or education, we find jobs, get into relationships and marry or co-habitat with those partners, we have children, we buy houses and cars, travel and take up causes.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to do everything we wanted to do and yet we find ourselves still feeling like we haven’t achieved our purpose.  That’s because we probably haven’t.  What I believe we were put here to do is to know and experience God, which is the underlying love and order behind everything in this world.

That brings me to the title of this post.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Where does that statement fit in with my belief that we were all put here to experience God (again as the underlying love and order behind everything).  I know a lot of people who would say that they are experiencing God by accepting Jesus as their savior and worshiping him.  To me that’s just a less devious way of breaking the first commandment.  Jesus was a son of God just as I am a daughter of God.  He was not God, but he did what most of us will never do and that is came to fully know and experience God.

All true mystics and spiritual teachers, no matter what religion they label themselves, will agree that Jesus was one of the most God realized individuals.  He reached the level where he was living from that place within himself that is Divine.  The human Jesus was cast aside when he reached enlightenment.  So there are two ideas as to what he meant when he said “I am the way.”

The first is that he was speaking not as Jesus, but as the Christ.  Perhaps he had his hand over his heart as he spoke and was emphasizing that the path to God is found within the heart.  Maybe if we’d been seated at his feet he would have reached down and touched our hearts.  I imagine Jesus as a very humble man, I can’t imagine him standing on a pedestal and insisting that the only way to meet God is to come to him first.

The other idea which was presented in Paul Ferrini’s series is that Jesus wasn’t saying come to me, but instead he was saying to follow my lead.  Do as I do, live the way you see me living, practice forgiveness, keep an open heart, and love even your enemies.  The more you live from that heart space, where love and forgiveness preside, the more you are living as God.  The “way” is not to come to Jesus and hope that he will do something for you, but allow his actions and words to lead you to do something for yourself.

My spiritual journey is all about seeking the God experience.  And to me that experience is felt as love and comfort.  When I can shift an angry reaction to a loving one, I am connecting with God.  Jesus paved a pathway that I can walk along.  I can seek his guidance through books and meditation.  I can do the same with other mystics and spiritual teachers that are no longer here in human form.

Ultimately it is all about what makes each of us individually experience the love (God) which is present in us and all around us all the time.  If believing Jesus is God allows that love to fill you up than that is your truth and your way.  For me, I am comforted to know that following the example Jesus set will bring me closer to knowing God from the inside out.

Bumpity, Bump, Bump, Bump

On Friday I mentioned something that gives me a big owiee when I bump up against it.  I get pretty uncomfortable with the whole “Jesus is the (only) Way” thing.  To me, that’s just another method of putting the power for your salvation and happiness outside of yourself.  I think we each are in charge of saving ourselves.  There is no incantation we can say or water we can bathe in that makes Jesus’ spirit enter our body and steer us to Heaven. (Although I do believe we can connect with him or the spirit he represents.) Our salvation requires work on our part and if anything the way of Jesus was the behavior he modeled for us.

This leads me to my most recent bump.  I have a Facebook friend whose spouse left them about 6 weeks ago.  In all honesty I was excited to watch my friend’s journey through this.  It may sound bad, but from everything I observed it was the right path.  The friend seemed to come alive and was intent on being happy on their own…until someone else played matchmaker.  One date and my friend is head over heels in love.  It would not surprise me if an engagement comes before the divorce is finalized.

I found myself wanting to tell them to stop right there and go back to being “on their own.”  I mean sure I could say rationally it’s too soon and they should really focus on healing, but this is about more than that.  The fact that it bothers me so much means it is also about me.  So what is it within me that this is a mirror for. I know it sounds narcissistic but stuff bugs us because it irritates an un-healed wound within us.  You can be sure when you take something personally that is really none of your business there’s more to it than just “concern for another.”

So what is it?  Well I think I fear that I will never “make it on my own” when it comes to my professional life.  But that I will always give in and take the easier path when faced with a challenge.  I’ve already started thinking of “back-up careers” that won’t make me happy but will keep me busy when that time comes.  The other thought this situation brings up for me is this idea of seeking outside of yourself.  Intellectually I know that true happiness comes from within.  I know that in order to love fully I must first love myself that way.  But I can’t seem to do it.  I continue to seek affirmation from sources outside of me, instead of looking within.  I want my heart to open up wide again (I’ve felt somewhat closed lately) and when it does I want to leave it that way instead of stuffing it full of what the world has to offer.

At the end of the day I want for my friend the same thing that I want for myself.  I want them to be happy and at peace.  But more importantly I want them to stop searching and know that they are already enough!

None of us Really Know…Do We?

I just finished reading the book Silence of the Heart by Paul Ferrini.  It talked a lot, like most of the spiritual books I read, about the inward journey being the place where you find your truth.  All of the outward stuff just forces us, if we wise up, to ask those inward questions.  When we bump up against something and it makes us go “OWIEEEEE!” we ought to ask ourselves why.  That is where we get real answers.  That is how we move forward on our unique path to enlightenment.

I went to my grandmother’s funeral a few weeks ago.  She was a wonderful woman, who lived a long life and had a lot of experiences.  I went to the service hoping to cry and laugh at the stories told about her.   But I also knew since she attended a baptist church the sermon would go hand in hand with the celebration of her life.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a church like that.  I got bumped…big time.  In a way I thought maybe I’d conjured up and exaggerated the message, that maybe it was bitterness that caused me to remember only one particular aspect.  But no.  The only message I took a way from Mema’s funeral sermon was:

If people don’t ask Jesus into their hearts they are doomed to Hell.  It doesn’t matter how good they are, all that matters is they allow Jesus to save them.  All the other religions are wrong…end of discussion.  And since Mema had Jesus in her heart, the only way to see her again is to take Jesus into your heart.

I was squirming in my seat.  My stomach was doing flips.  A lump was forming in my throat.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to run.  That is how I felt as I listened to the minister speak.  That is what I felt as I was supposed to be honoring my grandmother’s life.

So why did it bug me?  Why does this particular bump hurt so badly time and time again?  First off, this is my family’s religion.  This is their way of life.  For a girl who did her best to be pleasing (although I’m sure some might argue this), it really sucks to know that your family’s religion and beliefs tell them over and over that all the good I’ve done amounts to nothing.  I can spend years teaching inner city school children and serving food at the homeless shelter but I’m still going to burn in Hell with the worst of them.  In the end it only really matters that I’m on the right team.  And I’m not.  In ways I wish I could go back but I would be deceiving everyone if I did.

Which brings me to my next point.  There are so many people I want to shake and say “don’t you see how much of this life, this moment, this world you are missing out on by living a dream.”  We build up walls between us and our brothers and our sisters, so that we can stake claim to some plot of land in the afterlife that may or may not exist.  I am as convinced that they are wrong as the minister and his congregants are convinced they are right.  So I have built my own walls.  I have chosen to love my brothers and sisters less.  I’ve been prideful and smug.  I’m no different than the man that smiled and told a roomful of mourners that unless they followed his ideas they would suffer in a fiery Hell forever.

The truth is we don’t know.  None of us actually know what happens when we die.  We don’t actually know if there is a God.  We take it by faith.  We look at our own personal life experience and if we see something that appears as God there we make a choice to believe.  The books we read are all just experiences shared by other people just like us.  It is not my place to tell you where or how you should find God.  It is not my place to tell you that your God is not the right God.  I should simply love you for having the courage to seek at all.  And I hope to be loved for those reasons as well.

I’m Teaching Again…

Over a year into my spiritual endeavors, I got the idea that I wanted to teach what I was learning to teens.  In my own life, I had been presented with Religion as a guiding tool to get you successfully through to your Judgment Day.  Whether it was valid or not my interpretation was everything that I do should be so that when I meet God, Jesus, or whoever one day they’d go through my list and it wouldn’t be so bad and I’d earn my ticket to Heaven.  Nothing I learned in Sunday school was applicable in my actual life.  If I wanted to do the many things teenagers tend to want to do, I was just supposed to NOT do them.  God didn’t want me to.  End of discussion.

What I learned as an adult on a Spiritual journey on my own terms is that God isn’t keeping a score card of my sins.  God isn’t even somewhere far off in Heaven watching over me.  God is actually an energy that moves through me and through everything around me.  If I am connected to and aware of that energy I am led to the best outcome for myself.  Instead of obsessing about what the God “out there” might be thinking of my choices, I simply pay attention to how I feel about my choices.  If I am on the right course I feel at ease, if I am not I feel stressed.  I am learning how to live now.  My spirituality has been the ultimate self-help.  Now, if I feel legitimate guilt I understand it is because I have done something that is not characteristic of who I really am.  I can let it go and remind myself of the goodness within me.

One thing I’ve said since I first found this path is if only I’d known this stuff when I was a teen.  I could have made better grades, been more organized, been better capable of dealing with conflict, and had more self-confidence.  But everything I did as a teen and young adult has brought me to the place I am now.  If I’d meant to “wake up” any earlier, the teacher would have arrived.

So back to the teaching thing.  Over a year ago I volunteered as the teacher’s assistant in the Uniteens (6-8 graders) program at my Unity church.  I did that for several months before the program fizzled due to teacher changes and low attendance.  Last Winter, our Youth Director returned after Maternity Leave and was ready to start a new program.  Again, I felt called to take it on.  I resisted for a while, but eventually stepped up and volunteered to lead the program starting August 15.  Since I made the commitment, I’ve been planning the year with my co-teacher.  During this time I’ve had a lot of feelings of uncertainty and fear.  It reached a peak the other day and I actually dreamed that 24 kids showed up for the class and not one of them was cooperating with me.  I woke up thinking what have I gotten myself into? And then I picked up the book “The Last Lecture” and read the whole thing over the day.  By the time I was finished I was reminded why I had gotten myself into this.  I want to help kids understand how valuable their dreams and ideas are.  I want them to know that they are divinely guided.  I want to give them the spiritual tools that will carry them successfully through middle school, high school, and into adulthood.  I want them to know that “God” isn’t an entity waiting to judge them after death, but a spirit that is within guiding them to live the most joyful and productive life they can.

Yesterday, I had 8 kids show up who are apparently ready to “awaken.”  And I’m going to do my best to teach them how….