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.

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.

The Ways We Are Spoken To

Over a week ago, I was on my way to meet my spiritual mommy, Mildred.  I had myself completely wrapped in negativity as I drove to the coffee shop.  I was thinking about how I hadn’t been meditating and doing my spiritual “work.”  I was thinking that I didn’t deserve the time, love, and energy Mildred gives to me.  I was thinking of how unmotivated and flakey I’ve been for too many months now.  I was thinking of how idiotic it was of me to ever think that I was special and had any sort of divine purpose here.  I was doubting my talents…thinking of the many others who are more talented and more importantly – more disciplined.

I’ve read and written about being the watcher.  I know that I am not the egoic monkey mind that squalks like a madman.  The truth of me is that I am the one behind all that who sees it, hears it, and knows better than to listen.  Sometimes that part of me can stop the madness and bring me back to truth.  But on this day I really couldn’t.  Something else had to do that for me.

When Mildred and I sat down with our coffees, she pulled out a little book called “Creative Thought” (another Daily Word type thing).  She opened it up and handed it to me.  She said that she’d read it that morning and thought of me.  Within the passage she had highlighted the following two phrases:

That which may have restricted my freedom to unfold is now released.

I declare I can be all I choose to be.

Another phrase that jumped out at me was:

My destiny is Divine.

Spirit chose to set me straight that day by using my sweet friend Mildred.  For the rest of that day, my monkey mind shut up.  I was once again reminded of the many ways God speaks to us.  If our ego is too loud to hear the still small voice Spirit will send us a voice we simply can’t deny!

I’ll leave you with one more message I got this week through my sister’s Facebook page.

Why I Like Eminem and The Wire

I’m in the car the other day and the new Eminem song (the one with Rhianna) comes on.  I sing along to the chorus, it moves me, I think it’s good.  I can’t say that it is actually good though.  The song in essence is about a violent and abusive relationship.    It is an artistic expression of the if I can’t have you no one can attitude.

Knowing this makes me question why I like the song.  Am I sick and twisted?  He sings about hurting her and she answers that she likes the way it hurts, loves the way he lies.  After giving it some thought I realized it is the honesty that speaks to me.  I don’t know that Eminem has ever lied to us in his music and lyrics.  He draws from what he knows, thinks and feels.  He takes the rage and instead of balling it up and pretending to be good and proper, he creates from it.

He admits his mistakes.  He warns of possible back slides.  He tells the truth as he knows it.  The truth reaches people.  It touches them for better or worse.

I loved the TV show The Wire because it told the truth.  The characters were believable.  The good guys were really bad sometimes and the bad guys were really good at other times.  Nobody is one or the other and an honest story shows us that.

Someone mention the honesty factor in response to my Stephen King post.  In his book, King talks about how important it is to tell the truth in your writing.  I’d say that falls in line with all creative expression.  When you put yourself out there and expose real emotions in your art or work, people will connect to it.

A Unity Lesson

I talk about my church, Unity Eastside, a great deal on this blog.  A few people have asked about Unity or made remarks about wishing they could find a church or minister like mine.  There are Unity churches all over the country.  If you visit their website you can see if there is a church near you.  Over the next year I am going to be teaching the kids at my church and Unity lesson plans are going to be on my mind a lot (particularly on Sundays).  I thought it might be nice to share some of those lessons here for anyone who wants to learn more about Unity.  So here goes my first such post…

Sunday morning,  I taught my first real lesson to the 5-8 graders in my group at church.  Our first unit of study is on the Unity Basics.  I find myself getting stumped when I try to explain the beliefs and ideals of my church to people so I am really excited about the opportunity to learn as I teach.  Although I feel that most of the time I live the Unity principles, I couldn’t quote them for you if you asked me.

Yesterday’s lesson was an introduction and overview of the 5 Basic Unity Principles.  They are as follows:

1.  There is only one Presence and one Power active as the universe and as my life.  God the Good.

2.  Our essence is of God, therefore we are inherently good.  This God essence was fully expressed in Jesus, the Christ.

3.  We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in mind.

4.  Through prayer and meditation we align our heart-mind with God.  Denials and affirmations are tools we use.

5.  Through thoughts words and actions, we live the Truth we know.

The lesson quoted the scripture Matthew 7:24-27.  This is the section where Jesus talks about building your house on a foundation of rock verses sand.  The house built on rock withstands winds and floods, the house built on sand does not.

How does this relate to the 5 principles?  Well because in Unity, those principles are the rock on which we build our spiritual life.  Basically if we face difficult times in life and we know that at our core we are connected to God, that God is the only real power (Omnipotent), then we will take the time to get quiet and make that connection.  We will listen for the still small voice or the inspired idea that gives us the answers we need.  Another illustration of this is to imagine a lost child in a grocery store.  The child goes into full-on panic mode.  They are running, calling for their mom or dad as tears stream down their face.  But usually the minute an employee or helpful bystander stops them and reminds them their parents are still in the store and they will find them, they calm down.  If your spiritual life is built on the idea that God is always there and all you need to do is be still and experience it, life will run more smoothly and effortlessly.

The other very important aspect of this foundation that Unity offers is the idea of paying attention to your thoughts.  Like I’ve said in here before and it is also a song we sing at church…our thoughts are prayers.  Whatever we give our energy and belief to is created in our life with God’s help.  God is more or less the Super-Conscious.  If we give enough energy to a thought it goes from our conscious or unconscious mind out to God’s and pulls to us, like a magnet, whatever it is we are focused on.  So when your egoic mind (which is as close as you get to a Devil) is thinking crazy thoughts, it is good to say “No that’s not real” and replace the thought with something that brings you feelings of peace and love.

I’d say that the most important of these principles is number 1.  All we really need to know is that.  If that is where our thoughts lie, life will be easy breezy.  Even when things are tough you can get through.  The other principles, in my opinion, reiterate that one and give you tools that help you get to the place where you are living number 1 to its fullest.

Are You a Christian?

I grew up and still live in the Bible Belt (at least I think N. Florida is part of the BB).  I’d say that the majority of my life I’ve been a confused blob in this pool of Christianity or even more specific Southern Baptist-ism.

When I was little we didn’t go to church but all the kids I cared about at school did.  It was something that was discussed in class.  People would ask “What church do you go to?”  I didn’t have an answer.  I felt embarrassed and more importantly left out.  When we did start going to church I had trouble listening and engaging.  I’d missed the fundamentals and frankly a few of the “cool kids” at my church were down right mean.  But I lived in the culture where the definition of a Christian was a person who is both good and right.  It was a world where teachers, doctors, therapists, and grocery store clerks earned all sorts of extra brownie points for wearing their love of Jesus on their sleeves.  A world where “Christian” could be used as a synonym for a number of positive adjectives.  (“Well that’s not very Christian of her.”)

To be honest I think there was only a brief time in my life where I was a real Christian.  After that I dusted off the old hat and put it on only at certain times.  Like for instance when someone asked “Are you a Christian?”  I didn’t necessarily believe that I was lying.  When I filled out the registration papers before giving birth to Bella, I checked the “Christian” box.  Mark questioned me on that one.  More or less I thought if we’re not Christian, what are we? We have to be something.  There wasn’t a box for I Don’t Know.

The other day I was involved in a conversation where the yardstick of Christianity came up.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this person would love me any less if they questioned my status and discovered my answer.  The fact is in the world I live in, the world I know, most people assume that all the other people are Christians.  And when it comes to the people they love and consider friends or family it’s unfathomable that those folks would be anything but Christians.

6 years ago or 10 years ago if anyone asked me if I was a Christian, I would have said yes.  If pressed further I might have mentioned how my Aunt Madie brought me to Jesus when I was about 12-years-old.  That would have been my out loud answer.  Inwardly I would have said that I questioned and even doubted God’s existence.  I would have said that I’d be happy to never see another church in my life and that the second anyone mentions that word I look for the nearest exit.  But even inwardly I still might not have said NO, I’m not a Christian.

Today I believe strongly in something that is bigger than myself.  I use the word God at times although that word is filled with all kinds of charged emotions.   What I believe in is indescribable and in my attempts to explain it, I never seem to get it right for everyone.  It is something that can only be found and understood through each person individually.  I go to church now.  I love church now.  I go to be with like-minded souls.  I go to hear stories and inspirational words.  But when I want to be with God, I go into silence.  I listen to my breath and I wait.

So if you were to stop me on the street and ask me if I am a Christian, quite frankly the answer is no.

I am a seeker of love and truth, who wishes only to fulfill my highest potential in this life and on this planet.

You’re the Star!

This month at church, Rev. Jean is doing a series on the new book “The Fifth Agreement.” The book and the series include a review of “The Four Agreements,” so that’s what the talks of the last two weeks have been.  Last Sunday she discussed agreement two: Don’t Take Anything Personally.  I particularly enjoyed the way she presented the idea.  She had us all imagine a scene from our life and watch it in our mind like a movie.  Then she pointed out that the way we view the scene is only our perspective and if we watched the same movie through someone else’s eyes it would be totally different.

The reality is we are the stars of our own movies, but for everyone else we are merely supporting characters in theirs.  As I write blog posts, I often wonder what people are going to think.  Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with a lot of people who knew me at different phases of my life.  Everybody has a different version of me in their minds.  I question how my version…the real me…measures up to theirs.  Are they disappointed, pleased, shocked, or attracted?  Sometimes when I am retelling events as I remember them I worry.  I worry because A.)I have a terrible memory and B.)what if my memory doesn’t match up with those involved.  I’ve read a couple of comments on other blogs where the writers have more or less been accused of lying.  The thing is, I don’t believe they were lying at all, but rather recording the memory how it played out in their movie.  When I was in 6th grade I was best friends with a girl named, Brandi.  I remember so much about our friendship.  I remember listening to Bon Jovi, playing with my hamster, jumping on the trampoline, interviewing each other on cassette tape, and climbing out her bedroom window late one night at the end of the summer (don’t worry we didn’t go any further than the driveway).  When we got back in touch on Facebook she sent me a message saying that whenever she drives by my old neighborhood she remembers swimming at my house and eating frozen Milky Ways.  We had carried with us completely different memories of the same exact friendship.

There are a lot of things that people hide or change about themselves depending on who they are in the company of.  We do this because we are afraid of what others will think of us.  We are afraid of rejection.  A positive thing we can learn to do for our own peace of mind is to not take anything personally.  Everyone is the center of their own Universe.  Whatever statements they may make to you or about you doesn’t really have anything to do with you.  It’s just a role you’re playing in their movie and that role most certainly does not define you.  For me, I am learning not to let the criticism or praise from others become a master over me.  I have an array of ideas in my head and people of all walks of life could read my blog and find stuff they love and hate about me. If I tried to please them all (which I have spent a lot of energy in my life wanting to), I would not be living my own truth.

Thoughts on Equality

This is my post in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day.  I have just returned from seeing Avatar and I am processing yet another very deep movie with lots of layers.  One quote that stands out to me from the movie is:

“The strong prey on the weak and nobody does a thing.”

Unfortunately this is the truth about so much that has happened throughout human history.  It is the people with money or political standing that get to decide for the rest of us.  It was someone with money and power that sent explorers to the new world and encouraged them to steal an entire countryside from the Native Americans.  It was someone with money and power that sent ships to Africa to bring back human beings for slave labor.  Generations later it was someone with money and power that decided the descendants of those human beings, that were stolen from their home country and forced to America, were not human enough to have the same quality of life as white people.

And I think a lot of people get convinced it’s all OK.  They decide that because the “powers that be” are doing it, then it must be just and right.  Sometimes those “powers” convince them that it is for the greater good.  They turn regular people with feelings and beliefs into enemies.  Once you are convinced that people are a threat, you can ignore the tug at your conscience that tries to remind you they are just like you.

Sometimes though someone is strong enough to stand up for what they believe in and risk it all for change.  It starts with just one person brave enough to do this.  Eventually people start to take notice.  They hear the truth in the message.  We are all equal.  Flesh and blood.  Thoughts and emotions.  Souls.  In these ways we are all connected.  Anything I do to another, I do to myself.  Every prophet, mystic, Master has told us this.

The Human Filter

I’m reading a book right now that is a channeled book.  The first time I read a channeled book I was embarrassed to admit how much I loved the book without giving a disclaimer.  I can’t even remember what I would tell people before expressing my admiration for the material and it’s authors, but basically I wanted to let people know that I wasn’t crazy nor was the information in the book.

My new thought is that a lot of what you read that is of a spiritual nature (or not) is channeled.  Most authors will express that they received an idea and just began to write it.  Stephenie Meyer got the idea for Twilight in a dream.  The next day she sat down and began the saga.  There is no denying that her work has been a life-changer for many.  Because of the way the series has been received, I’d be willing to bet there is some truth and spiritual insight in it (I’ve only read the first book, so I don’t really know).  *Note: A friend who previewed this post has assured me there is no spiritual insight to be found in The Twilight Series.

There are a lot of books out that offer advice on how to live a better life and how to have a closer relationship to God.  Every person who writes does it because at some point they are inspired.  The very first definition in the dictionary for inspiration contains the phrase divine influence.  So when you sit down to write in response to a divine influence you are working as a channel for a message that is meant to be presented, which brings me to the title of the post.  Every piece of writing is created by a human.  Thus everything written goes through their personal human filter.

I have read the books “Conversations With God” by Neale Donald Walsh.  Portions of those books struck me as truth and felt very much like a pure message from a higher power.  But other portions of the book felt like a man trying to speak for God.  I could not swallow every piece of his message.  The same thing happened when I read the book “Mere Christianity.”

Every religion has it’s own religious texts, but all of those texts were written by human beings.  There is holiness abound within their pages, but they have also been through the filter.

I have said this before in various ways, but we all have an internal compass, a divine directive if you will.  We know in our beings when we are presented with truth and when we are assaulted with fallacies.  When something is untrue or misinterpreted we feel it.  Some people refer to this ability as a “bullshit detector.”  The key to utilizing this is to actually read, study, listen, and let the information in.  I think all too often in our society people simply accept what they are told, without letting it really sink it, and without questioning further.  We learn this at an early age when we are going through the “why” phase.  Eventually the answer “because I said so” is presented to us enough that we decide that it is enough.

It is not in our best interests to judge (good or bad) information if we have not first sat with it, taken it into our being, and deciphered it’s meaning from within.  Many people hold up bodies of information as truth or lies without first going through and weeding out the divine author from the human one.  Many people hold up bodies of information as truth or lies without every actually reading or studying them at all.

I know from experience that the human meaning you apply to divine guidance is not always right.  A while back I wrote a post titled Pain.  I had asked God during meditation what would be my next lesson.  The answer I received was “pain.”  If you reread the post you will see I put that guidance through the filter and applied it to physical pain.  I really had no idea in the moment that the message was a sort of “warning” of the coming unfathomable pain of losing one of my best friends.

I try every day, with everything I am presented with to use spiritual discernment.  I have been accused of blindly accepting what I read in books.  The reality is, I read a lot of books, I take the grains of wisdom and truth I find and apply them in my life, the rest I discard.  It is of the utmost importance to me not to confuse the message with the messenger….

Idols

a-christmas-carol-jim-carreyWe went to see Disney’s version of A Christmas Carol yesterday.  It was a pretty good take on Charles Dickens’ classic story.  I realized in watching it that a story becomes a classic because there is great truth in it and that truth stands the test of time.  It was the lesson of idolatry that popped out to me first.  I have had this subject in the forefront of my mind for quite a while now and seeing the movie helped me put my thoughts together to reflect on it.

The first ghost that visits Scrooge is Marley, his former business partner.  When Marley arrives he is covered in chains and those chains are attached to heavy trunks that he is pulling around.  He tells Scrooge, in essence, that during his lifetime he put his emphasis on business and making money.  He is there, with the help of three other ghosts, to show Scrooge that he is doing the same and needs to change his ways.  When Marley leaves, Scrooge walks to the window and sees many other spirits all with their various attachments.  This is the beginning of the click that will lead Scrooge away from a lifetime of worshiping money, security, and wealth.

As I have explored religion and learned about eastern traditions, I have given thought to the idea of “false Gods.”  There is only one God and the first commandment says that we shouldn’t put any Gods before the one.  At some point along my path I read a book that touched on this subject.  You see I had always viewed “false Gods” from a religious perspective, thinking only in terms of prophets or teachings that would lead people astray.  In the book I read “false Gods” was given a broader and more realistic definition.  I learned and accepted that anything that gets more of your attention and energy then God is an idol.

I began to think of the many things I have worshiped over my lifetime, the things I have put before God at various stages of my journey.  There has been safety, security, sickness, health, friends, family, my wardrobe, getting good grades, my weight, parties, my jobs, intimacy, motherhood, TV, food, money, status, reputation, acceptance, and the list could go on and on.Smurfs_Vanity_Smurf-Statue

I was at a workshop a while back and we were put into small groups to do an activity that inevitably turned into discussing our challenges.  Someone in my group said they were struggling with idolatry.  I took the bait on that one and started talking about the things I consider idols that many others don’t pay mind to.  She said for her the “false God” had become her church.  She was a minister.  Over the last few years she had a major role in building a new church.  It was growing by leaps and bounds and she found that she was constantly working towards this growth.  She felt she was not as connected with God, that the lines between God and church were getting blurry.  She was making a conscious decision to reconnect with God and follow the path laid before her (even if it meant leaving behind the empire that was being built around her).

This is always a goal for me.  It is the true meaning of the term dying daily.  To die daily is to take a moment to acknowledge and release (ah, yes easier said then done, I know) your attachments.  I have to constantly remind myself to let go and at the very least I am in a place where I can witness myself holding onto things.  Eventually my moment will come and hopefully it will not involve ghosts and chains….