Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oneness: Many Convergent Ideas Coming To Me

I regret not sending out my message last week. We were in the midst of a violent wintry blast that covered our plentiful hardwood trees with ice and snow and then toppled them with 40-50 mile winds. Tremendous power outages ran rampant through our county in East Tennessee – well over 60% of people were without power.
I’ve talked a lot about Oneness, as so many do. For whatever reason, many of these ideas have been in the forefront of my consciousness over the last month or so.
In Alcoholics Anonymous I have developed a sense of spirituality that expresses itself mostly in seeing a little bit of me in everyone’s story and experience. Without any willful effort on my part, other than being willing, I have found myself looking for the sameness rather than the differences in all I meet in these church basements or other meeting places. Seeing myself in them creates an atmosphere that can only be described as a form of Oneness. It has been very healing for me and opened me to hear my Higher Power in their voices.
In A Course In Miracles (ACIM) oneness is a particularly “hot topic.” Collectively, human beings are referred to as the Son of God – co-creators with God the Father. We are all One. As we mature in the Course, that reality becomes more palpable and we change. As our perception changes so does our world and our reality. God needs for me to become aware of my Oneness because He works through me to create that sense in others.
As stated in Lesson 56, part 5: “In my own mind, behind all insane thoughts of separation and attack, is the knowledge that all is one forever. I have not lost the knowledge of Who I am because I have forgotten it. It has been kept for me in the Mind of God, Who has not left His Thoughts. And I, who am among them [His Thoughts], am one with them and one with Him.”
I recently attended a seminar with Rev. Michael Dowd, whose outlook on Oneness encompasses all of creation. His evangelizing to some 1,800 audiences, starting in April 2002, provided material for his book: Thank God for Evolution in 2008. This book is noteworthy for its breadth and depth of endorsements, including six Nobel Prize-winning scientists. On April 2, 2009, Dowd addressed the United Nations concerning the lack of an evolutionary worldview, which he maintained has resulted in a global integrity crisis. Overcoming this crisis, he said, will require a deep-time view of human nature, values and social systems.
Maintaining a Christian perspective he accepts the theory of evolution. In 2010 he began EvolutionaryChristianity.com. Thirty-eight religious leaders from diverse backgrounds joined him in an audio seminar introduction. In spite of their dissimilar religious orientations and backgrounds, they hold many perspectives in common; such as valuing Big History (deep time), a global ethos, and realistic expectations grounded in an understanding of scientific (Evidence of common descent), historical (History of the world), and cross-cultural facts (cultural evolution) as "divine communication". This program has drawn both rebuttals and praise from Christian sources.
I have written in these messages describing my feelings about this “thing” called Life. I’ve discussed how indigenous cultures recognized, knew, and understood this. Everything “contains” a spirit and their spirit was no bigger than, more important than, nor different than anything else’s – deer, stones, trees, river/lake/water, birds. They were at one with their environment not users of it.
Now there’s a series on PBS called “Earth: A New Wild” that is simply fantastic. It airs on Wednesday nights. Its premise is to examine what’s happening in the world of nature, including humankind, and how people and nature interact and can help and encourage each other.   As described in Wikipedia and produced by National Geographic Television in association with Passion Planet, the series is hosted by Dr. M. Sanjayan, a leading conservation scientist, who takes viewers on a stunning visual journey to explore how humans are inextricably woven into every aspect of the planet’s natural systems. Shooting in 29 different countries, the series features spectacular natural history footage from the most striking places on Earth, filming encounters between wild animals and the people who live and work with them. With up-close looks at a range of species, from giant pandas to humpback whales and African lions to Arctic reindeer, Sanjayan reveals that co-habitations with animals can work — and be mutually beneficial.
It is a scientific look at Oneness. I believe it’s worth checking out.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#1 March 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Who I Am Determines What I Look For

Comments I received over the past several weeks indicate the difficulty many of you have in accepting that the world we see reflects only our perceptions of ourselves – and the fact that to change our perception of ourselves, we must first change our perception of the what we think we are seeing “out there.”
This is not a new idea – but we are not used to hearing it put quite in this way.
Consider this brief quote from the Jewish Talmud: “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Or this anonymous quote: “To see beauty in the world, look for beauty; to see ugliness, look for ugliness.”
If you feel irritable, for example, you’ll look and you’ll find ugliness in the world; if you feel content and harmonious with yourself, you’ll look and you will see harmony and beauty all around you; if you feel fearful, angry and apprehensive, you’ll look for the results of fear and anger and you’ll find it; if you feel at peace, you’ll look for the results of peace and serenity and you’ll find it.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states that we are to bless what we think we see. Old-timers in AA state that I am to pray for happiness and joy for those who vex me. If I am at peace I’ll look for peace and I’ll find others who are at peace or I’ll see those who are trying to control their world to achieve peace – and I will have compassion for them because I see that, as well, in myself.
In short: what I look for determines what I see; who I am determines what I look for.

I think this is the meaning behind Jesus’ statements that said: Those with ears, let them hear; those with eyes, let them see. From Mark 4: 10-12 (see also Matthew 13:10-15): [Jesus] replied [to the Twelve] “…To you the secret of the kingdom of God has been given; but to those who are outside everything comes by way of parables, so that (as Scripture says [Isaiah]) they may look and look, but see nothing; they may hear and hear, but understand nothing….” From Matthew 13: 16-17: “Happy are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear! Many prophets and saints, I tell you, desired to see what you now see, yet never saw it; to hear what you hear, yet never heard it.” From Mark 8:17-18: “Have you [disciples] no inkling yet? Do you still not understand? Are your minds closed? You have eyes: can you not see? You have ears: can you not hear?”
Jesus is not talking about the Twelve physically seeing and hearing Him where prophets and saints haven’t. He is talking about ACIM’s sense of Spiritual Vision as opposed to physical sight: Lesson 39 in ACIM’s Workbook for Students asks us to “… search out your unloving thoughts in whatever form they appear; uneasiness, depression, anger, worry, attack, insecurity and so on. Whatever form they take, they are unloving and therefore fearful. And so it is from them that you need to be saved…. It is imperative for your salvation that you see them differently. And it is your blessing on them that will save you and give you vision.” [W1, 39; 6:2-4; 7:2-3] 
I do not change my sight into vision as an act of my willpower. I begin changing how I think by blessing (and really meaning it!) rather than condemning, judging, or criticizing others – in short, not looking for the ugly. By doing this I will begin (with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit) to see the world differently, then think differently, and then begin seeing myself differently. All this will “…save me and give me vision.” I’m not blessing folks because I’m doing them some kind of spiritual favor. I’m blessing them because that’s how I get better and – at the same time – how the Holy Spirit makes them better and makes our interactions holy.
Let me give you a few examples of how I have learned that this is true – at least for me. As mentioned earlier, in AA I learned that to eliminate a resentment that I am holding against others all I need to do is to pray for their happiness, joy and contentment. I had a departmental boss that treated all of us as simple resources to use up and throw away. He believed that was the way to get ahead in our corporation. I was number two in our department. It drove me nuts to listen to him rant and rave (and curse!) the staff and me. I was getting sober and beginning to enjoy some serenity in my life. I was told to pray for his happiness. I didn’t want to. “Then enjoy your unhappiness,” my sponsor would say. Finally, I prayed for this boss of mine. I can still remember my first prayer: “God, I hope you make the SOB happy and give him joy.” That’s the best I could do. I continued to pray for him every night for a month. My prayers slowly softened and by the end of the month I was no longer angry. I was saddened by his behavior – but my anger at him no longer controlled me. He, too, seemed to soften during that month. A miracle? Really?
There were some folks in my AA meetings that would drive me up a wall. My sponsor would tell me that there is a truth about him/her that is in me and that I am hiding from myself. “You mean to tell me that that bastard is simply reminding me of me?” “Yep,” he’d reply. God, I hated hearing that! But it always turned out to be the case. Perhaps there was something about them I admired, but was afraid to do or say. Perhaps there were emotions I had worked hard to hide and control, but they simply laid them out there. I was embarrassed to find myself acknowledging those feelings or angry that they seemed to suffer no consequences, as I had expected I would, when they openly exposed their feelings.
What I look for determines what I see, which determines who I am, which determines what I look for.
I hope this helps.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#3 February 2015

Copyright, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How I Think Determines What I See

I received a lot of comments about last week’s message [Msg-1-Feb-2015; Letting a Dream Die]. Most were very supportive from folks who have had similar situations facing them. Some, however, were disturbed or curious about my comments concerning “sacrifice” and/or perception and projection.
These have been tough lessons for me, too. Let me attempt to clarify.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) asserts that our perceived world is but a dream. The Course is attempting to help us wake up to our true reality – namely, that we are part of the Spirit of God or part of the Mind of God.  Collectively, humankind is the Son of God – already! Here and now! Eternally! That is our individual and collective reality.  
In short, I dream my reality is different. I dream I am separate and the world “out there” is dangerous and has to be controlled to ensure my peace and safety. I continue to get angry at the reality I see “out there” because it doesn’t support my desire to remain as a separate and, therefore, a “special” and unique somebody.
Since we have dreamt that we have separated from God and have sinned against Him, we fully expect His wrath and damnation. If, however, we can actually sin, then God can actually sin since we are a part of Him. As Allen Watson explains in A Workbook Companion, [Vol. 1, Circle Publishing, 2005]: “I am perfectly holy because God created me that way. Holy means ‘sinless,’ and you cannot be partly sinless any more than a woman can be a ‘little’ pregnant. The logic here is quite simple and plain: If I am part of God I must be sinless, or part of God would be sinful. If I am without sin I must [be holy and] have holy perception as well. How I see myself affects how I see the world…. My awfulness envelops the world if I see myself as awful. If I am willing to see the world enveloped in holiness, I can learn to see myself that way. I know this sounds like I have it backwards; the order ‘should be’ that I see myself holy first and then the world. The thing of it is, what keeps me from seeing myself as holy is my unwillingness to see the world that way. From within the ego mindset it seems as if seeing the world as holy will make me unholy by comparison. The fact is that as I see the world, so I see myself, and as I see myself, so I see the world.” [p. 104]
When I am in a bad mood, nothing and nobody looks good. When I am content and serene with me and my life, everything seems to flow well and easy and people seem to be quite like me – maybe making a mistake here and there, but going about their business doing what seems to be responsible in their minds, just as I do.
A long time ago I wrote about an encounter with my neighbor and my comments to him over his politically incorrect email about the President being a black man.  I had shot a nasty email back in anger. I felt bad about it and the next day called him and apologized. He, too, was feeling bad – thinking the email was “funny” and not realizing that it could be interpreted as being offensive. There was an unexplained  “real-ness” about our conversation with each other. Neither of us was trying to “fix” the other or to be condescendingly righteous. We were simply being each other and recognizing each other in each other. We have been on a different, but unexplainable, plane ever since. It is beyond words, and it has been a beautiful thing.
I believe this kind of thing is what the Course is talking about. This kind of relationship can exist with all I meet. This kind of peace and joy can exist in all I do. All the time. Always. But I remain a little frightened of it. It feels strange. I feel vulnerable.
However, once I begin looking at people as a reflection of myself, ACIM tells me I will slowly learn (with the help of the Holy Spirit or my Spirit Guide) that all acts of hatred, anger, retribution, punishment, exclusion (which are all acts of the different faces of fear) are either an act of love or a call for love. That realization on my part – seeing either an act of love or a call for love – will be used by the Holy Spirit to transform the world. I do not understand how that can happen and it is just as well because it is not my job – it is too far above my pay grade. That is His function.
This “peace of mind” is what the Course promises us. Felix (the Name I give to my ego) thinks I have to “give up” something for this miracle to occur. That’s just who Felix is. But it is not who the “real” me is. As I discussed last week, when I “give up” a dream, I’m not really giving up anything. It was no sacrifice to replace my illusionary dream and its pain and shame for the joy and peace I experienced. It is not a hardship to give up anger for peace with a neighbor who is giving up anger himself. I just had to be willing to call him and to be willing, as well, to see things between us differently. He didn’t work at it, and neither did I. It just happened – just like the Course says it will. What my neighbor and I found was a peace between us that has made each of us more human to each other.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#2 February 2015

Copyright, 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Most Difficult – Letting a Dream Die

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) describes the life we think we are living as a dream. In short, my life consists of illusionary images I have created. Yes, some of these images/illusions are shared with yours. We learned them together. Other religions/philosophies refer to these shared images as race (as in human race) consciousness. Carl Jung referred to this same phenomenon as The Collective Unconsciousness. Regardless, ACIM states what we think we think determines what we see. If we think “dangerous” thoughts, we will see dangerous things lurking about.
Fundamental to understanding what the Course is talking about is the fact that what we see is quite directly caused by what is in our mind. The commonsense idea of perception is that something outside causes an impression, through my senses, on my mind. The reality is the reverse, according to the Course. The thoughts of my mind are projected outward and cause my perceptions.  ‘Projection makes perception,’ says [ACIM].” Allen Watson, A Workbook Companion, Vol. 1, Circle Publishing, 2005, p. 85.
The Course also states that it’s common to think that, to change our mind and our perception to see a more Christ-like vision of the world and its people, we have to somehow sacrifice something of ours – our self-image, our wealth, our physical safety. The Course emphatically declares that it doesn’t recognize (much less believe in) sacrifice. All that happens to us, when we “get it,” is our illusionary world is replaced with true spiritual vision.
Since what we think we see doesn’t really exist and is not truly real, how can there be any loss when we give that up? This is a tough nut – but it’s true for me. I’ve experienced this.
My personal experience (rather than money or safety) is that to give up a dream or a vision or a hope or anything like that is the most difficult reality I have had to “sacrifice.” To illustrate, I want to tell you my story of giving up a critical vision I held of me.
In the early 1980s, I bought a 1972 white Mercedes 250. It was a great deal. I bought it from an executive in the company where I was a Program Manager. [I later found out that the “good deal” was because he was having an affair with my wife.] Regardless, the car was perfect for my pretentious lifestyle. I was starting to really drink heavily on a daily basis. My life was beginning to fall apart – my marriage as well as my relationship with my children. However, if I could maintain my to-the-world appearance, I felt okay.  Soon I was a single parent who had both of his children living with me, which was very unusual at the time. I was proud of that. Working in a high stress field, owning a condo in an upscale suburb of Washington, DC, having custody of my children, and driving a Mercedes (which I had nicknamed Mother White) all fit this pretend image I was trying to project and maintain.
The kids and I tried to change its oil and filter one holiday weekend. I thought it was all well and good. One of the children drove it to see a movie and the engine froze – all the oil has leaked out. It was a disaster. Mother White had died. It was going to cost almost what I had paid for the car to have the engine replaced. I didn’t have that kind of money and all my credit was used up.
I borrowed an early 1970s Toyota station wagon from the family of friends of my son’s. It was a tri-color: Dark gray, light gray, and rust. But it ran well and was very serviceable. I called it my Gray Goose. I let the Mercedes sit in the parking lot, hoping for the day I could have it restored. It was during this time I got sober and began working the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Condo Association was asking me to either remove it or get it fixed. I talked with my sponsor and he told me to sell it. I balked. Giving up that car was to give up on my dream, my pretense, my image of self-importance and success. I kept hoping to be able to restore it, and with it, return to my former glory. That day never came.
I finally made arrangements to buy the Gray Goose.
The day that did come however, was the day I truly understood why the Program stressed honesty so much. In meetings I began to share much of what I’m writing right now. It was humiliating and humbling. I had Mother White – a symbol of my perceived success – and I couldn’t afford to keep it; I couldn’t afford to repair it; I couldn’t afford to let it go.
I was stuck. Stymied. Frozen.
Women in the Program I had dated a little said they actually liked the Gray Goose. My sponsor kept telling me this was a real test of my desire to live a sober happy life. I remained stuck, stymied, frozen. I just couldn’t give up on the dream I had nurtured for so long.
But I finally got sick and tired of being stuck, stymied, frozen. So I placed an ad – honest about the engine – and it sold. Quickly. It was still a great deal – if you were financially responsible, which I had not been, and could act quickly, which the first responder to the ad did.
I was relieved that the ordeal was over – but remained saddened that the pretense was gone. Until ….
Nobody seemed to notice! No one laughed at me at work. No one jeered at me on the freeway. None of the parents of my daughter’s college friends seemed to mind. No one! Damn!
I had been honest – really honest – with both myself and others. I gave up that pretense – that illusionary vision – and what did I lose? Nothing! What did I find? I was happy, joyous, and free! No more lies. No more shame. I was really, really just plain old me –and still accepted at meetings, still respected at work, still …. What a sense of relief.
But I keep forgetting that experience. That’s another story.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#1 February 2015

Copyright, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Thoughts Are Things

I love this beautiful quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your – destiny.”
Working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I began reclaiming my life by simply reversing this beautiful thought from Gandhi. I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t even think about it. The life I had created for myself had taken me to the absolute rock-bottom. It had almost financially ruined my future. It had almost ruined my career. It had definitely destroyed my children’s trust in me. It had destroyed my faith and confidence. It had bolstered my toxic shame.  I was virtually dead inside.
As my life began to improve in sobriety, my thoughts had already changed. My habits began to change automatically – by not drinking alcohol and working the program. Different things were important to me now and my actions and priorities reflected that. I thought differently. I spoke differently. I was focused on different things. I was no longer the “old me.” I didn’t quite understand who the “new me” was, but I knew it wasn’t the “old me.” My life had absolutely turned completely around – which is the literal meaning of experiencing a conversion.
The first few lessons from the Workbook in a Course in Miracles (ACIM) have focused on the thoughts I think and the effect they cause. The Lessons are trying to reinforce that my thoughts cause my perception – not the other way around, which is how Felix (my ego) wants be to believe. Felix sees something “out there” happen and it causes me to react or behave in such-and-such a manner. It is just the opposite according to ACIM. I “think” my thoughts and then “see” the “out there” event. The two things – thought and sight – are virtually simultaneous. What I “see” with my eyes is what I have already “thought.” Throughout ACIM physical sight is sharply contrasted with spiritual vision.
Unity Churches and Science of Mind congregations are places where I first heard the phrase “Thoughts Are Things.” In short, how you think – the thoughts you harbor, fear or hold dear – determine what it is you will see in the ego’s world.  This echoes the message of ACIM. It also echoes advances that are being made in the arena of noetics (consciousness and spirituality). Noetic Science, according to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, is the study of “…how beliefs, thoughts and intentions affect the physical world.” (www.noetic.org)
Dan Brown’s newest novel, The Lost Symbol (Doubleday, 2009) is a story that swirls around and through the field of noetics. It’s as fascinating a read as was his previous novel, “The Da Vinci Code.” The protagonist understands the theory of noetics, and, perhaps, the reality of spirituality, but cannot bring himself to really believe in what it is saying.  “…Professor,” the old man said, “I realize that you, like many educated people, live trapped between worlds – one foot in the spiritual, one foot in the physical. Your heart yearns to believe…but your intellect refuses to permit it.  As an academic, you would be wise to learn from the great minds of history…. If I’m remembering correctly, one of the greatest minds ever to live proclaimed: ‘That which is impenetrable to us really exists. Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.’”
“Who said that? …  Gandhi?”
“No, … Albert Einstein.” (p, 308)
Deepak Chopra has talked about the existence of holographic phenomena, which allows for small particles to contain the whole of which they are only a part. Gregg Braden has talked about the instant communication that seems to exist between objects at the sub-atomic level. He doesn’t know how it happens – but it does! Masaru Emoto (a Japanese scientist) has conducted tests that proved human thought and intentions could (and did!) change the crystals of water as it froze – whether in test tubes, in lakes, or in rivers.
Our thoughts influence what it is we “think” we see. ACIM says that our thoughts determine what we see. If I change my thoughts I change my world. Felix looks at the world “out there” trying to find support for his belief that he is “special.” He doesn’t find it and gets angry. This anger colors all his perception, and he concludes (on a subconscious level): “I’m angry at the world I see because it doesn’t reflect my desire for specialness.” What he sees he interprets as attacks / disappointments / resentments coming at him from the world. He retaliates, justifies his fear/anger and defends himself. This is Felix’s world. It is not filled with peace, acceptance and serenity.
I no longer want to see my world in this way. Friends from Saint Augustine who moved to Charlotte NC about this time we moved to East Tennessee shared this idea with me: We have moved from Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens. Now we are moving from Homo Sapiens to Homo Noeticus.
I believe humankind is moving in that direction. The highly motivated hate-fear reactions to that movement – from those whose power, money and prestige are rooted in maintaining a sense of fearfulness – underscore the reality of it.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#4 January 2015
Copyright, 2015