Be Still and Know That I Am God*

I was 26 and still not on any career path. Though I liked the classes at the Santa Anita Church, I didn’t have a call to be a minister, so that was a dead-end.

Joyfully, God was my life now and thus I only wanted to move forward following His guidance. Being inspired by Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I Am God” I decided to spend 30 days in solitude and silence to hear what was mine to do.

Like my 3 practices to put God first every day, the creation of how to live the 30 days came from the Divine within. It was strict. Not only was I in solitude, but I was allowed no TV, or radio, nor was I allowed to lie down during the day. I could read, write, meditate, and go for long walks to fill my days.  

The strict structure helped me stay present to my commitment. I especially loved my long walks in beautiful neighborhoods. The only place I went to read, write, and reflect, other than my apartment, was Self-Realization Fellowship’s Lake Shrine. I had recently discovered it just before my 30 days of silence, a human-made lake in Pacific Palisades. The lake was surrounded with lush greenery, flowering plants, and my favorite part, statues and quotes from the world’s religions populating the hillside. There was also a memorial with some of Gandhi’s ashes. This was my kind of place.

On my first exploration of Lake Shrine I had gone into their small bookstore to learn about the organization that created it. I saw a picture of a Hindu guru, and learned he was the leader of the organization. Though I loved learning about world’s religions, I didn’t trust Hindu gurus as I connected them with news stories I had heard growing up of unethical behavior. When I looked at the picture of this Hindu guru, I didn’t feel aversion, but I also knew I wasn’t interested in learning anymore. I never went back into the bookstore, instead, I came almost every day to bask in the universal spiritual energy that was so alive in every plant, tree and drop of water. I loved it there and felt very much at home.

The 30 days of silence started off well, but by 2 weeks in, I hit the wall…literally with my head. The lack of almost all external stimulation was physically painful. I was miserable, yet determined, and so I continued in the silence. Subtly, yet powerfully, it all shifted. The peace not of this world began to wash over me until I became peace, “the peace that passes human understanding.” It was in this state my 30 days came to a completion.

I had hoped for a Vision about my future during this 30 days but received none. The only clarity I did receive from the Divine surprised me. I was told I wasn’t to be a monastic/recluse, that I was to participate in the world and discover the same peace I had found during the 30 days, in the activity of life. The guidance surprised me because being a monastic/recluse wasn’t something I had considered, so I wasn’t sure why this emphatic guidance not to do it? At the time I didn’t know any monastics and was vague about what it meant to be one. Years later as I got to know monastics, I realized how natural this way of being was for me, whereas actively participating in the world was something that was far more effortful. The clarity of this guidance has guided me during many challenging times, pushing me to find Divine peace in the world, rather than seeking it in reclusion.

I am not sure from where the determination to complete a full 30 days of solitude and silence came, but along with my 3 daily spiritual practices, it has consistently sustained and inspired me on my spiritual journey for the past 3 decades. It reminds me that whenever and whereever we are in God, we are in the eternal, and thus in perfect and unconditional peace .

To God be the glory

*Psalm 46:10

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Your Path and Who You Are

What is your path to the Divine? Do you see the connection between your path and who you are? Did you know the Myers-Briggs personality test is based on Hinduism’s 4 paths to God? This points to the idea that our path to God and who we are, are intimately connected.

16 days after I began living my commitment of God first in 1992 [see previous blog: God First] my path to the Divine was revealed.  

I was on the floor of my bedroom reading about Hinduism in Huston Smith’s book, The World’s Religions. Smith gives a quick summary of the 4 paths to God, Bhakti (love/devotion), Jnana (knowledge) Karma (service/work) and Raja (the royal path of meditation.) We are all of them and we tend to land more strongly in one.

Prior to reading this book, the path I liked and respected the least of the 4 paths was knowledge. Knowing and thinking about things, in my view, separated one from the tenderness of the heart, thus God. As I read Smith’s section on knowledge however, his first sentence stated this was a path for those with a strong “reflective bent.” Unlike thinking, reflective was a word I liked and with which I identified. For me, reflection activated my heart and body, as well as my brain.

With my defenses softened, I read this section with great interest when a profound awareness came over me that I was reading about myself, what I had been like my whole life. In this awareness I heard a Voice say, “your path and who you are one and the same” while simultaneously I and everything around me became this golden Light. The walls of my apartment dissolved into golden light, and my attention was shown a homeless man on the street outside, and I knew our Oneness in the Light. In embracing who I was and my path, I was one with everything and everyone.

Then later that night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I became aware of the word TRUTH in huge golden Light letters above me and It was showering Light – like rain – down into my body. I simply opened my heart and let it in. God clearly wanted me to understand, and accept, my path of the reflective (knowledge) and who I am with these 2 beautiful experiences.

Paradoxical, isn’t it? My path to Divine Love was/is through reflection and thinking.

It was over a decade before I understood the significance of the homeless man in the first revelation. I had struggled for years to find a place, an organization, where I would feel at home, until one day, I realized that I was the homeless man. Organizations, even those with the best of intentions, can stagnate the reflective path. Inquiry needs to be fluid and open to explore beyond what was known yesterday. I discovered that like the homeless man there was no worldly home for me to lay my head as I continually danced in infinite discovery with Spirit. Yet in Spirit, I am, we are, forever at home everywhere, all the time.

16 days into 1992 and the elements of the conscious spiritual journey were clarifying themselves to me.

Live God first every day, no matter what.

Know your path to the Divine and know who you are.

What about you? What is your path to the Divine? Do you see the connection between your path and who you are? How has this helped you in your spiritual journey?

Blessing you on your extraordinary and unique journey of becoming and Being.  

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God First

Naked in heart, mind and soul before the Divine, my whole body vibrated in sobs as I sat in the back of Old South Congregational Church. It was the day after Christmas, 1991, and I had gone on a solo trip into Copley Square, Boston while on a holiday visit with family. Alone in the church sanctuary, I poured my heart out to God, “I can’t feel Your love, I am so lost. Your love is the whole reason why I am alive, all that matters to me, but I don’t know how to feel it or live it. Help me! Please help me!”

Amid the sobs clarity slowly began to rise. The only way I would experience God in my daily life was to put Him first every day in my life. If He was the reason why I was alive, everyday must be lived first for Him and not for anything else. As these thoughts came, I knew it was right, but after this past year [see my last blog The Pleasures of Flesh vs. the Promise of Spirit] I also knew the concept of “God first” by itself wouldn’t do, it had to be something tangible. I was asked to listen for the next week, until New Year’s Eve, to hear what I was supposed to do to bring my deepest love alive in my daily life.

Though I felt uplifed and hopeful in this clarity, there was something else I needed to say. I didn’t understand what the purpose of Jesus was in my spiritual life. My life was God’s, and God was everything, nothing was missing. Yet my wide open, tender heart knew for reasons mysterious to my mind, that I needed to commit to God first in Jesus Christ’s Name or it wouldn’t feel in alignment with my soul. My mind didn’t understand why, but it was in a state of surrender and so I did.

I traveled back to L.A. and on December 31st, at 11:30 p.m., having received from The Christ Presence what I was to do, I sat at my dining room table and made my commitment. Every day, no matter how busy or tired I was, no matter what I was thinking or feeling (and this was the big one for me,) I committed to exercise, journal and meditate to anchor my commitment to God first in my life. I didn’t have to do any of them for a long time, or do them well, I just needed to do them as my way of tangibly acknowledging God as the source of my life and day, every day.

There is a saying, “we take one step toward God and God takes 10 back towards us.” Yes. In 1992 my life shifted in such dramatic, yet gentle ways, that never again did I want to live a life where God wasn’t first in my life. I live in this daily commitment of God first and 3 practices to this day, 30 years later, and will continue to live this way for the rest of my life on earth.

God first. The foundation of the conscious, spiritual journey.

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The Pleasure of the Flesh vs. The Promise of the Spirit

I was overflowing in love, affection, and pain.

I joined the Santa Anita church community in Arcadia, CA in my mid-twenties. It was a New Thought church and as I wanted to learn more about what this philosophy was, I joined their ministerial program. I didn’t have a call to be a minister, but it was the only place where regular classes were being offered, so it was the place I wanted to be.

After the initial months of excitement and getting settled in, it dawned on me that I was significantly younger than most of the community. In fact, I never met another person in their 20s while I was there.

Thus, in January 1991 when I got a job on the other side of L.A. in Marina del Rey and the manager David, a young man of 21, took a liking to me I found myself much more drawn to him. Our dating turned into a loving relationship. David was athletic, full of life and was physically and emotionally very affectionate, it was pure pleasure.  

The pain was in knowing that God had called me to be in the Santa Anita community to grow spiritually, and yet that’s not where I wanted to be. I started missing my classes, I stopped attending Sunday services regularly and when I did show up, I felt a lot of shame. I was embarrassed I wasn’t able to follow through on my commitments and not liking the way that felt when I was there, I showed up less and less as the year progressed.

In this emotional war with myself, there was an another battle as well.

A year earlier I had decided I didn’t want to be a Mom, that I was too introverted to be a good one, and I was at peace with the decision. However, on my 25th birthday, as sat in my rented room in L.A., I casually went through Life magazine’s latest issue which featured pictures of a developing fetus inside the womb. The pictures revealed the miracle of this process, and as I felt the awe of it, my 3rd eye opened. I had no idea what a 3rd eye was at the time, but I was aware that I was looking at a vision that played in front of me like a movie that came from a place between my eyebrows. I saw myself in a hospital holding my baby, the Dad was by the bed though I couldn’t see him, and we were in joy. In that moment I knew it was God’s Will for me to be a Mom and my previous decision dissolved instantly.

So now, a few months later, as I was enjoying sensuous delights with David, I was also aware he was not on the spiritual path and we were different in other significant ways. I was pretty sure he wasn’t the father of the child in the vision. However, as much as I believed this, my attachment to David deepened throughout the year, and with it the divided house within me grew in its destructive battle, and emotionally brought me to my knees. Though my mind was clear about what was right, my body wanted something very different and my heart felt ripped apart by the intensity of these differences.

I felt utterly weak and helpless to follow through on what my mind knew was right. 3 times that year my mind made the decision to break-up with David and every single time, within hours, my body fought back with a 105 fever and strep throat. After the 3rd strep throat, the doctor told me the next time I would have to get my tonsils out. My mind stopped trying to break-up with David, and of course, the strep throats never came back. My mind and body were at a draw.

One day during this unrelenting inner war, I went for a solo hike in the Foothill mountains. I talked and talked to God as I walked up the mountainside until I was exhausted. My trip down the mountain, my mind and body quiet for the first time in months, I heard the “thunder of silence.” It came from the trees and It said out loud, in words, “Write, write, write.” That was it. It was clear and unmistakable, and yet I didn’t understand what that had to do with all the angst I had been earlier expressing? Now I wonder if writing these blogs are the fulfillment of that guidance? And perhaps the timing of the guidance, in the midst of the my agony, is a reminder that the spiritual journey can sometimes tear us a part before it rebirths us.

As the year drew to a close, I had a meeting with Rev. Russ Williams, the minister of The Santa Anita Church. I dreaded it, sure of being reprimanded for my behavior over the past year. To my surprise however, he didn’t judge me or my behavior but instead gave me an entirely new perspective. He suggested the reason the relationship had such power over my life was because it was giving me something I wanted and needed more than what the church offered. What did I think that was and was there a healthier way of having it in my life?

What a gift great questions are.

The answer to the first question was clear. I felt David’s love envelope me in words and touch every day, whereas God’s love often felt conceptual, distant, and sporadic. Of course David won out – my heart’s longing since I was a child was to have and express love, and our relationship gave me a direct experience of that love. Though I liked the classes at Santa Anita, they were full of concepts which paled in comparison to loving touch.

The clarity of that answer frightened me. It showed me I didn’t really feel God’s love. How could I live my life for something/someone whose love I couldn’t feel or experience in a tangible way in my daily life? I didn’t doubt God’s existence and I knew in the big picture God loved me, it all just felt so far away from the dust and grit of daily life. The pleasure of the flesh was far more real to me, and that just added to my upset.

Where was I to go from here? Like Arjuna from the Bhagavad-Gita, unable to take sides anymore in the great battle within, I needed an enlightened Being to help me on my way.

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There is a Divine “No,” and It is Good

“Nooo!” the voice reverberated in my head.

It was my first week back from winter break in January 1990, I was sitting in my 2nd semester acting class vigorously taking notes when suddenly, there was an energetic rumble near the base of my spine that roared up through my body and erupted in my head yelling, “Nooo!”

In surprise, I put my pen down and felt the power of this unexpected guidance, Its’ authority was undeniable. As I took it in, I knew exactly to what it was referring and that It was right – I was not an actress. Up until this moment I hadn’t been willing to face up to this obvious fact, as I had fullly committed myself to this direction, but now the Holy Spirit (Kundalini energy) had filled my inner being with God’s word and the truth was known. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the great comforter, and I was indeed comforted. God does tell us “no” when it’s for our highest good, if we are willing and open to listen to His wisdom over our egoic desires. In the quiet moment after the “no,” my heart said without hesitation, “yes.” By the end of the week I officially left the school.

I returned east, first to my Mom’s in Cleveland, then to my Dad’s in Arlington, VA. No sooner had I arrived at my Dad’s, however, than I fell into a depression. I had no idea what to do next. I knew through using my mind I could make things happen, but I also learned that what my ego desired was limited, thus what I longed for now was God’s wisdom but had none.

While my Dad was at work, I slept most of the day and whenever I woke up I prayed “please God, show me the way” until I went back to sleep. After about a month of this – essentially a month of grieving and letting go – God showed up.

I was sitting on the floor, leaning against my bed, when suddenly I was in God’s Light that is not of this world, and in this Light was the Santa Anita Church.

While I had been in L.A. (Pasadena to be exact) I had gone in search of a metaphysical bookstore, and upon finding one in Arcadia, CA was surprised to find a church attached -The Santa Anita Church. Intrigued I showed up on a Sunday and was amazed to hear their foundational philosophy was of Oneness. While I had been in Boston, I had written my own little philosophy where I had concluded that Oneness was the place where the world’s religions met. Thus, to walk into a church – with a cross which was important to me – that was consciously anchored in Oneness floored me. I didn’t go every Sunday – after 6th grade I hadn’t been a regular church goer -but I was opened and expanded the Sundays I did go.

As a psychology major in college, and having been in therapy myself, I had developed a habit of seeking out that which was wrong with me and needed to be fixed. What I heard in this community was that my true Self was whole, perfect, and complete just as I was. It was a completely new idea to me and its’ healing impact was immediate.   

Back in Arlington, VA, I leaned against the bed at my Dad’s house, immersed in God’s Light, witnessing The Santa Anita Church before me also in the Light. This was God’s answer for my next step, the “yes” as clear as the “no” had been previously, and in awe and gratitude the grief and depression dissolved instantly and completely. I had no fear, I moved forward in God.

What I didn’t realize at the time is how this experience forever changed the way I made important decisions in my life. No longer did I make choices leading from my rational mind, but rather I learned to wait, listen and follow guidance from God. So though acting was a “wrong” choice, it led to a wonderfully “right” way to live my life, one that has been both miraculous and challenging.

In following God’s will I have been asked to grow over the last 30 years in ways far beyond anything I would have ever chosen for myself, deepening a level of trust and intimacy in God unmatched by anyone or anything of this world. The richness of this path has far exceeded anything I could humanly have imagined.

There is a Divine “no,” and it is indeed, Good.

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The Power of Mind

“Did you know for Hindus, 1 day in the life of God is 4.3 billion years on earth?” asked Professor Rahbar of my East Asian Religions class. Whereas in western religions time is considered precious and scarce, he explained, from the Hindu perspective time was vast and abundant so there was a much more relaxed view of the overall importance of any given moment.

Week after week Professor Rahbar pushed at the boundaries of my perspectives with teachings from the eastern religions. I would lay in my bed and try to inhabit these entirely different mindsets which could be disorienting but also wonderfully mind expanding.

I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki and tried meditation. Like most people, I enjoyed it and found it difficult. It unquestionably improved my racquetball game (and I was delighted to later read that coach Phil Jackson gave all the members of the Chicago Bulls a copy of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.) I was a regular of Boston’s metaphysical bookstores, embraced Carl Jung who brought soulfulness to psychology, read the Institute of Noetic Sciences quarterly journal, and attended workshops at Boston’s version of the Omega Institute. It was a rich time of inner exploration.

My exploration, however, never included any kind of psychedelics, synthetic or natural, nor did I ever smoke or ingest pot and rarely drank alcohol. Appreciative of the non-ordinary states I had experienced since childhood, I wanted to know that any future experiences came directly from Spirit and nothing else. This remains true to this day.

I also wasn’t sure where my love of Jesus fit in, especially His teaching of service. My journals during this time were full of concern that meditation and the other topics were too self-centered, and I didn’t want to get lost in it. Thus I worked for 2 years – first as a volunteer, then as paid staff – at a halfway home for juvenile offenders. Experience is a great teacher and I learned things there I could never have known simply by writing papers for college classes, or meditating on a cushion, including the joy of service.

With all this exploration there arose a restlessness within me to try something completely outside the box after college. When I read Adam Smith’s book, The Powers of Mind, I found myself energized as I realized new ideas could lead to new life.

I wanted to feel more, and as movies had become an emotional outlet for me, I decided being an actress would be a fun leap. Inspired by the Powers of Mind book, I created a positive, present moment affirmation of being an actress and began to say it with as much passion and conviction as I could – standing up and out loud -3 times a day, 20 times each time. I kept this practice up for many months, and the affirmation was always there when I needed it.

I also negotiated with God. Being of service to Him, I argued, was the most important thing to me, I just wanted to try this one selfish thing to see what it was like. I promised that whatever I ended up doing, I would find a way to use it for service, and with that agreement in my heart I moved forward.

In my last year at Boston University, I signed up for my first ever acting class, had a kind, generous, and patient acting teacher who worked with me outside of class to help me work on an audition piece for The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was a success. Thus, with zero experience of ever being in a play, I moved out to L.A. to step into my new life which had unfolded effortlessly as I daily, and passionately, proclaimed my affirmation.

So much of my college years was about exploring ideas, the power of perception and the power of mind, and now I had just proven to myself that by having a new thought, I indeed could create a new reality. Amazing.

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Enough?

An intense anger had emerged in my relationship with my college boyfriend that confused and frightened me. After we broke up I leaned hopefully into the idea that he was the cause of my anger. My Dad, however, insisted I see a therapist and though I didn’t like the idea, I complied.

I had little awareness of my inner emotional life so therapy was painfully dull at first. I informed the therapist I had had a perfect childhood and my challenges with my boyfriend were over since the relationship was over thus there wasn’t much to talk about. That changed 4 months later when my Mom made a trip to my college to tell me my parents were separating. It was her choice and she shared it with respect and kindness for my Dad, but was also clear she needed to grow in a way she couldn’t do in the marriage.

In that moment, my ideal world fell a part and so did I. My Dad had known this was coming and had insisted I see a therapist so I would have a relationship with someone when it did. As my fellow introvert in the family, I am grateful for his understanding and wise guidance.

My therapist and I explored my inner emotional life for the first time, and I willingly felt into those moments of rage with my former boyfriend and discovered the pain behind that rage – I often felt invisible, irrelevant and unworthy in my family as I was so different. I slept for a month as these feelings washed over me, my external mask falling away, I was knocked out by what was lurking beneath.

Just as I was adjusting to this new reality, I went home to pack up our house with the rest of my family, and was startled to find how happy I felt to be with them and the wonderful memories I had of my time in that house. Paradox greeted me in this experience as I discovered these opposite feelings were both true, I was happy and loved my family, and simultaneously often felt unworthy and irrelevant. I have learned to hold both of these realities in my heart and am grateful for them as together they soften and open me to the paradoxical world around me.

Over the years I have discovered the feeling of “not enough” is a fairly universal false belief. Each of our stories may be different – not smart enough, not rich enough, not powerful enough, not attractive enough, not strong enough, not funny enough etc – and yet the underlying core of “not enough” connects us. Herein lies our compassion for our neighbors and our enemies, for no matter how different their story seems from ours, they are probably responding on some level to the same thing we are – “not enough.” Even arrogance and superiority can be compensations for the persistent “not enough” belief,

Nations, corporations, religions, groups of all kinds also can collectively carry this false belief of “not enough” – not enough power, not enough wealth, not enough popularity, not enough happiness, not enough good, not enough love – and so we try to fix it on the outside. However, even if we fix the external, if the internal false belief of “not enough” isn’t acknowledged, felt, and addressed, it will continue to create unhealthy and painful eruptions that hurt ourselves and each other.

Personally, I have never been able to permanently cure my feeling of “not enough” but I have learned healing tools and practices to deal with it every time it arises which also gratefully has deepened the tenderness between God and me.

What about you? Do you have healing tools and practices that serve you when that unrenlenting false belief of “not enough” pushes its way back into your life?

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How God Heals

I longed to know God’s Love again (see Pearl of Great Price blog,) but as that path was still a mystery to me, I turned toward relationship as my source for love.

By the end of my freshman year in college the only thing that enlivened my heart was my relationship with my boyfriend. Having no passion about the options available to me in college, I began to fantasize with my boyfriend how great it would be to have a family and create a home that would give life meaning. The more we allowed ourselves to lose ourselves in the fantasy, the less cautious we were with birth control, and it wasn’t long before I was pregnant. I was 19 years old, and he was 21.

The moment the clinic gave me my pregnancy test results, my fantasy world dissolved and I “returned to my senses” (an interesting phrase – where senses are one’s foundation, not Spirit.) Upper middle class educated teen girls didn’t have babies, and I was not about to step out of that paradigm. Being bold was not one of my defining character traits. Plus, I was angry a lot in the relationship, which I didn’t understand, but knew that I was in no position to raise a child. I chose to get an abortion, something I had promised myself I would never do.

My boyfriend was upset. He wanted to have a family and in an instant I had changed my mind and would not entertain any other option. He didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t the real me that wanted a family, it was a lost, fantasizing girl and I needed to grow up before I could ever consider having a family.

The weekend before the abortion I went to the beach with my friend and her family. As I was falling asleep on the beach, there was a sailboat crossing the horizon of my awareness signifying a shift in my state of consciousness. In my Vision Dream, I was in a hotel room, walking by the bathroom where my boyfriend and our 6 year old blonde- haired son were goofing around in front of the mirror – pretend shaving. I walked further into the room and started to get dressed for an event we were going to and yelled out to them to hurry up or we were going to be late. It was the most ordinary of scenes.

The Vision Dream ended and as I awoke I had a knowing, not of me, that I had just dreamt about our boy and that the 3 of us would be just fine. I knew I couldn’t have the abortion, this baby was real.

It didn’t last long though. As I returned to my outer identity, having a baby at 19 was so outside my realm of reality, there was no way I was going to step into the new, unknown reality. I had the abortion.

One afternoon soon afterward, I had a fight with my boyfriend, and dragged myself to the side of hill and just sat there in exhaustion. I had gone against my own moral rules, I was having sex before I was married, and then I had the abortion, and the most confusing bit was I didn’t feel guilty about it. Until then, my identity had been so tied up in my morality that I was baffled by my lack of guilt at going against my identity. It just didn’t make sense, I didn’t make sense.

As I sat in mixed state of mind, where up was down, left was right, forward was backward, there came that inner shift again. I turned to my left and saw this object that looked familiar, I remember learning what it was, but I couldn’t recall it in that moment. Then in my periphery there was a wise elder next to me, long white beard and everything, telling me it was a tree. And with that, I was suddenly outside of earth with this elder.

There were 2 lines going from me to the outside of each side of the earth which I still don’t know what they signified other than it was a very geometric Vision. As I looked at the earth, I saw people walking around in their individual boxes of varying degrees of light. What the wise elder revealed to me was that those boxes were created by humans and had no ultimate Reality. Even the boxes that were all light, made up of all what we would call good morals, and good beliefs, were still an illusion. What I now understand is I was seeing people’s energy bodies, and recognizing even they are limited, not who we really are. It was a huge expansion of seeing and understanding, and with this expansion, I was instantly back in my body on the hill, the exhaustion and confusion completely gone.

What a relief that it was okay not to feel guilty or shameful about the decision I had made. I moved back into my life in greater freedom and lightess of Being as I let my attachment and identity with strict morals dissolve – God was more than this, I was more than this.  

As the years went on, I continued to do healing work for myself, and with others, around the experience of abortion not from guilt and shame, but from love. That was such a great gift from the Vision. And when it was time, over 30 years after the abortion, God gave me the deepest layer of healing.

I met a man, a father, who had the same name first name as my college boyfriend so I took a casual interest. My interest grew as I learned his middle name was also the same as my boyfriend’s, and it turned out he became a father when he 21 and his girlfriend was 19 – the same ages as my college boyfriend and me. He and his girlfriend, however, chose to have their child and their now high school age son was thriving from what I witnessed – confident, happy, a great circle of friends, and a superb athlete. All the reasons I had had in my head of why it wouldn’t have worked for me to be a mom at age 19 instantly fell apart. I came face to face with the pain of the choice I had made next to the choice this father and his girlfriend had made and it devastated me. I crashed into my bed, the grief not letting me rise for days.

Nor could I forget the clarity of the Vision Dream I had before the abortion. I had been shown all would be well, and yet at that point in my spiriual development, faith in my cultural environment was far greater than in God. I didn’t feel shame, I felt such deep, deep sadness of what I missed by not following God’s Will.

Now, however, I did live my life in God and though the sadness knocked me out, I was able to pray and work my way through the grief with my Divine Beloved until I got to the other side.

This is how God heals. In the right time, in ways we can’t even imagine, the Divine creates the space for total healing. Throughout the years of this healing journey, I did not walk in guilt, shame, punishment, judgment, condemnation or fear from God over the decision I made, rather I was enveloped in Divine Love every step of the 30 year journey of healing. It wasn’t about right or wrong – as I saw in that Vision – everything is about God’s Love. Only God’s Love could reveal and heal my soul, my being, in a way that all the morality and shaming would and could never do.

How does God heal? Love. If it’s not coming from Love, it’s not God’s healing.

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Descension and Ascension Spirituality

Do you know the difference between ascending and descending spirituality? Did you know understanding the difference can be quite helpful on your spiritual journey?

The following is a descending spiritual experience:

I was in a new school for 8th grade, trying out for the basketball team, my first foray into organized sports. The night before tryouts I begged God to help me make the basketball team so I could make friends. My prayer routine basically was to lie on my back in bed at night and talk conversationally to God who I knew had no form, was everywhere present and loved me unconditionally. I remember this prayer because it was rare for me to want something this specific. I wasn’t asking for something that was unrealistic either, I was already a good shooter, but my shyness had stopped me from ever moving beyond the comfort of our family’s driveway basketball hoop.

At tryouts the next day, I was asked to take 10 foul shots. As I stood at the line, except for 2, one after another of my shots went into the basket. I was aware that I was in this vast golden light, and inside a flow that moved through me as I took each shot. I later came to understand this state of awareness to be the “zone,” and though I experienced being in the zone at various times in my athletic life, this was the only time when I experienced it as a golden light. God had answered my prayer.

This is descension spirituality. We open ourselves up to the Love-Intelligence of the universe (God) and invite Its’ infinite Goodness into our finite lives in time and space. The desire is for this Presence to heal, as well as to up-level, our individual and collective lives into greater fulfillment of love, harmony, and joy. In other words, as Jesus expressed in his prayer, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Though I wanted to be of service to this ideal of heaven on earth, this wasn’t what I hungered and thirsted for, not really. Ever since I directly experienced God’s Love (“Pearl of Great Price” blog,) I knew there was a world far more Real than this earthly world and it was this for which I longed. This is ascension spirituality, the desire to raise our awareness to higher, more expanded states of Reality. In ascended spirituality the focus is not to bring Heaven down into our life, but raise our life up into a Heaven state of Being.

As the culture I lived and learned about was almost entirely focused on this world, even when I did have an expanded state experience -as I did in high school – because it was outside the Judeo-Christian paradigm of reality, I had no way to understand it when it happened.

It was the summer before my sophomore year in high school, and I lay in bed reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Whereas I wanted to be like the character of Jo, it was undeniable to me, I was Beth. Beth was the one who wanted nothing more than to be at home with her family. I was amazed by some of the things Beth said, as I had said the exact same things myself, thus it came as a great shock when she suddenly died. I hadn’t seen it coming and started sobbing in grief at the visceral sense of loss. As I cried, I could feel a bit of an inner shift in my awareness, and then I opened my eyes and saw the word, “Harriet” floating in front of me. I wondered about it, it was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then suddenly “I” was up at the ceiling looking down at a body. The name “Harriet” that had been floating around, floated over the body and then came the awareness, “Oh, this is who I am this time.” And then whammo, I was instantly back in my body, everything aligned, Harriet, body and “I” as one.

Here I had an expanded state of awareness (ascension spirituality) but I had no way to integrate or understand it because I hadn’t yet learned about the different possibilities of ascension spirituality. Cognitive understanding, it turns out, is as essential to our spiritual journey as the experiences themselves.

Of course, we want both ascended and descended spirituality, and at different times in our life we can switch which one takes precedent. Today, what is the primary motivation for your spiritual journey, ascended or descended spirituality?

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The Hero’s Journey

Do you see your life’s story as the journey of a hero? If so, what has been the decisive challenge in your life that called you to your hero’s journey?

Mine came when I was still a girl, standing in our family kitchen, receiving my Mom’s uncomfortable wisdom. Before I share it, let me give it some context.

Upon having the glorious experience of Oneness in God’s Love (see previous blog) I longed to return It, to know It more intimately, but I had no idea how.

In Zen Buddhism, the initial experience of seeing one’s true nature is called Kensho. It is meant to be followed by further spiritual practice to develop, over time, a steady state of an awakened awareness. I knew nothing of such things as a young girl.

Instead, what followed was a life very much grounded in this earthly world. Every night, for instance, my family would watch the world news while eating dinner. Whereas my family would often launch into animated discussions afterward, engaged by the problems, I would fall asleep at the table overwhelmed. The daily suffering and conflict that I saw year after year on the news, without any relief, often left me feeling hopeless. Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King had completely given of themselves to humanity, I pondered, and yet they didn’t seem to even put a dent in the suffering world. If these great leaders couldn’t do it, what could I possibly do?

Nor did I find relief in the comfort of any theology.

One day, still as a girl in elementary school, I listened to my brother who was in middle school, argue with a neighbor as to why he didn’t think God existed. I listened with laser like attention because inside I knew that not only God existed, It was more real than anything on earth. However, my brother’s arguments (and, of course, his ideas have evolved in depth and nuance since then) agitated me with their reasonableness.

He argued,

1.) In the past, God was used to explain things that were unknown. Once science evolved, there became clear, rational reasons for things like plagues, hurricanes, the sunrise, and sunset, and none of them had to do with the personal whim of gods or a God. Those things we still don’t yet understand, we don’t need to make up a God to save us from uncertainty, but rather wait as science continues to evolve to rationally answer those questions as well. 

2.) God is weak people’s crutch. If one is strong inside, no crutch was needed.

3.) Any God who would prefer us worshipping Him over us focusing on making the world a better place is not a God that he valued.

In my agitation, I raced to kitchen to let my Mom know that my brother was arguing against God’s existence. My assumption was that she would immediately put a stop to it (and thus my agitation.) Instead, my mother said to me, “a faith that can’t stand up to questioning isn’t much of a faith.”

This is the moment when my experience of God’s Love came crashing up against my humanity and rational thinking. With my Mom’s refusal to protect me from my questions, I knew there was no way back to God’s Love without facing all the uncomfortable questions and confusion I had swirling inside me. I would have to find my answers on my own, and thus standing in the kitchen looking up at my Mom, I received the call to my hero’s journey.

How did your hero’s journey begin?

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