Blame Free

I resonate with spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda’s perspective that the ignorance in who we are as Divine Beings is the source of all of our suffering.

There have been centuries where there has been a cultural and historical belief system of what it looks like to be made in the image and likeness of God. Movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too, are an outward expression of a collective awakening that the One expresses Itself in infinitely diverse ways. This is evolution, we become conscious of that which we were previously unconscious.

As we celebrate this cultural awakening, may we at the same time be cautious not to blame groups for the previous ignorance. Ignorance is also collective, and we have all suffered under its cruelty in others and within ourselves. No one group created ignorance. When we blame an individual or group, we separate ourselves from the divinity within them as well. Gandhi said, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” In other words, hate ignorance, not ourselves and others when we/they are temporarily lost in that ignorance. The moment the fog of ignorance dissolves and we remember who we are, we won’t ever intentionally hurt anyone knowing they are us, and we are them.

Eternally, we are One.

 

 

 

 

 

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I Know that I Know that I Know

People often ask how do we know the guidance, the intuitive pull we receive in response to a question is from the Divine and not merely from our habit patterns or subconscious mind? I don’t think there is a proven way to differentiate them as it’s a subjective experience. The more intimate we are with our inner life however, the clearer the distinctions become.

For me, when guidance arises with some doubt about it, it’s fine, I just know that it is not directly from Spirit.  It still has a great value and I reflect on what it could mean and why it showed up.

When I receive clarity directly from God, it is infused in peace and the awareness that I know that I know that I know. When I really need to know something, I will not settle for helpful hints and symbolic imagery but ask for this direct, peaceful knowing.  It usually takes patience and persistence, letting all my personal agendas dissolve into emptiness before I’m unconditionally available to the Divine. It’s always worth it.

 

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Simple But Not Easy

I do spiritual reading every day from different sources. I am reading each book cover to cover. What are the chances then that I read 3 different sources all saying the exact same thing on the same day? It amazes me how much this happens.

Today I read from The Philokalia, a 4 volume series of the collected works of the Desert Fathers, the second was Julian of Norwich, and the 3rd was Paramahansa’s interpretation of something Jesus said in the gospels including Paramahansa’s interpretation of something Krishna said in the Bhagavad-Gita.

What were all 4 were saying today? Everything is God. We can experience the highest good possible when we consciously choose to recognize the Divine as the source of everything and everyone in our life without condition, all the time. When all that we do is intended to serve the One, when we speak with the desire to be used by God, when we devote everything, surrender everything, give everything, every day to this Divine One, then we are consumed in Divine Bliss.

It really doesn’t get much clearer than this, so why all the volumes of spiritual teachings? There is nothing harder than to let go of our intimate attachment to, and identity with, our human self.  Most of us are not willing to die without a fight, so spiritual teachings are compassionate tools and methods to help us along our way to death. They are so gentle, in fact, we often don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. “Meditate and relax” – we relax as we loosen our self-protective hold on our human identity. Step by small step we walk to our eternal bliss.

 

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An Invisible Product

I love being a minister because it reflects what I love the most – God. I am so grateful that my work and what I love are intimately intertwined.  However, it is an odd thing that the primary “product” of my job is invisible. It is something about which I can share concepts, but as the Zen Buddhists say, the concepts are simply fingers pointing at the moon, not the moon itself.

Perhaps this is why so many people hold on so tightly to religion. Religion can be known humanly. The teachings, the rituals, the values – they are the visible manifestations of the invisible product. Even for those who identify as spiritual but not religious, there are teachings, rituals and shared values with which to identify and say, “I know Spirit.” And yet still, the moment we turn to form to affirm our spirituality, we have limited the invisible to that form.

What I learn from the mystics, on the other hand, is their reluctance to say they know anything. They don’t try to prove their oneness in God through anything visible. They just are – nothing extra needed. That with which they are One does not need to be defined by them as It infuses their thoughts, words, actions and very breath. It just Is.

It seems like an impossible journey to be that intimate with the invisible that cannot be described, and yet, it is the most important journey of our life.

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The Narrow Path

The longer we are on our spiritual path, the more narrow it becomes.

Freedom spiritually at first means exploring many different paths and perspectives from all over the world. There is such joy to feel the breeze of unlimited, fearless exploration blow us along our path. Different ways of understanding, of experiencing and living open us effortlessly to our infinite nature that has no walls.

Gradually then, this freedom begins to feel limited. We begin to feel our path, though varied, isn’t going as deep as we sense it could. Listening becomes more important to us, as we recognize that through all these experiences we have come to feel and know this One Presence that is behind all of them. The love and intelligence of this Presence can be understood and experienced differently, and yet the longing to become more intimate with It becomes more intense.

For a long time, my spiritual practices bore fruit richly and I loved my connection with, and in, God. However, eventually, without knowing it, I entered into the dark night of the soul – that time where everything is dry, arid, and empty. I continued to do my spiritual practices, but the connection and joy they once gave were gone. It lasted for almost 3 years. It was a difficult time. I reached out to spiritual teachers, and healers, but I quickly learned this was not something to fix, it was something to allow. The most difficult part of the dark night of the soul is not knowing if and when it would ever end.

It did end. I know the moment the end was in sight. A man who works with the homeless, who I had gotten to know at Starbucks, walked over to me one day and said, “I think you would like this book.” I knew of the book but had never read it. It was short so I decided to read it (being fairly indifferent at this point to most spiritual books.) Immediately, and surprisingly, it awakened a new light in me. I drank in the words thirstily and yet tried to go slow. It was a short book, I didn’t want to lose this new spark. I prayed.

Within a few days, another man walked up to me in Starbucks and said, “I don’t know why, but I think you would like this book.” I looked at it. I could see it was along the same lines as the book I had just finished. I read it and that soul spark in me began to dance in recognition, I was coming home.

What I know is, if I hadn’t gone through that dark night of the soul, I wouldn’t have read those 2 books. They belonged to a world of which I had previously been uninterested. The emptiness of the dark night brought me to my spiritual knees and made my heart soft and open to that which it was previously closed.

It has been several years since my soul reigniting. It’s been a slow journey as the listening has lead me to a narrower and far more defined path that previously. My teacher is now singular as well. I listen for his voice, his spirit, his love either directly or through other teachers and guides, but always it is his voice for which I am listening.

The paradox is, the narrower the path has become for me the freer I feel inside. The more intimately connected I feel with my teacher, the more intimate I feel with all spiritual teachers. The more defined my spiritual home is, the more I recognize home everywhere.

What I have learned is the narrow path is simultaneously the freest and the most intimate spiritual life we can live. May we have the courage and the wisdom to embrace it.

 

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Do We Need Religious Organizations?

I am so grateful for my family and how I was raised. I was encouraged to question and think for myself about all things, including religion. Though my Mom had me going to a liberal Protestant church until I was in 6th grade, after that there was no required Sunday attendance, thus I didn’t attend very often.

However, like many people today, I had a very personal and alive relationship with the Divine, which was free from a religious organization.  By the time I was in college my exploration expanded into East Asian religions, Shamanism, and Carl Jung (as I was a psychology major, he was my bridge between the 2 worlds.) I loved all the exploring and conversations with friends about God, life and why we are here.

I was in my mid-twenties when I first discovered a New Thought church in Arcadia, CA. I found it amazing – its philosophy embraced the Oneness behind all religions – and knew this was a home. I didn’t, however, take on the church as an identity.  It was simply a church with which I resonated and enjoyed attending Sunday services when it was convenient for me.

As time went on, I explored other New Thought churches, took classes and got more involved in the communities. It was 5 years before I became a member of the Centers for Spiritual Living – one of the branches under the New Thought umbrella. Membership was a requirement to be a licensed Practitioner of the CSL teaching, so I surrendered to the obligation.

I received a clear call to be a minister but wasn’t told which organization I was to serve in this role. After prayer, meditation, and exploration, I finally decided CSL made the most sense as it allowed me the freedom to continue my exploration of many paths, with its basic principles big enough to make room for it all. Though I highly valued Ernest Holmes, the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living, I didn’t identify myself with him or the organization. The call was from God, and not an organization.

The entire time I was in ministerial school I never thought I would be a pulpit/church minister. It wasn’t just that I was, at the time, highly introverted and shy, I also didn’t identify myself as a “church” person.  Though I had been attending Sunday services over the years and liked them, I didn’t ever feel like it was “me.” While in school, I came up with many ideas of how I could serve God as a minister outside the church structure. Thus, it came as a major shock when I received from the Divine that I was to be a pulpit minister. I listened and became one, though it took years to embrace being a leader in a religious organization.  I still see myself as a minister of God, not of CSL or any organization. Of course, the Divine includes CSL, but It certainly is not limited to it.

It’s an interesting thing, after all these years of learning to embrace being a member of an organization (well, I’m a work in progress,) to then hear of the mass numbers of people leaving organized religion today. Millennials, we are told, have very little interest in it and in a couple of decades or so, organized religions as we have known it will barely be in existence.

I find myself conflicted. Effortlessly I can align myself with the idea of no more religious organization, especially one that demands Sunday morning attendance. At the same time, as Spirit has very intentionally, and unrelentingly – despite all my protestations – led me to become more involved in spiritual communities, ones that do have weekly Sunday morning services, I have become increasingly grateful for this form of communal celebration in and as the Divine. Sundays have become a favorite day, a day when I gather with people who are on this same path of self-discovery and awakening, each in our unique way and remember the One source of us all. It’s a time when hearts soften, minds come alive and collectively we experience an infinite joy that can often elude us in the daily grind of day to day living.

I love my freedom and my freedom has brought me to be a leader in a religious organization. While the organization isn’t my identity, the structure it offers is a direct gift of unlimited Divine Love for which I am eternally grateful.

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Commitment

I made a commitment to my Divine Beloved that I would write a blog every other week for a year. It’s not always an easy commitment to keep as sometimes I don’t have anything to say. I think to myself, “what if I just skip a week? It’s not like it will make a difference to anyone.” In fact, I’m fairly certain I could stop writing the blogs altogether and it wouldn’t matter to anyone, plus it would be one less thing for me to do.

Yet these thoughts don’t go very far. I have learned to keep my commitments to my Divine Beloved as best as I am able because I have discovered it is in the consistency of keeping the commitments that hold the greatest benefit for my spiritual growth. It says to the universe, no matter what, no matter how tired, empty, uninspired, limited I feel, You are more important than all of it. And so I write even when I don’t know what to say, like today, because this is how I live my love for my Divine Beloved and there is nothing in this world that is more important.

It’s the greatest love affair of all when we choose to show up for our Beloved no matter what, as our Beloved is always there waiting to give Its’ Love back to us no matter what. This how we learn of the infinite, unconditioned love of the universe pouring through all of our lives, all of the time…by showing up.

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