Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas is Now - Always

Today I am reminded that Christmas is Now. But, in fact everything is always Now. Easter is now, Lent is now, Kwanza is now, Yom Kippur is now, Ramadan is now.
The fact that everything is always Now is a truism in most spiritual traditions and was (and sometimes still is) a difficult idea for me to comprehend. There is no past nor future. Only Now. My Ego wants me to believe in the past and the future so I will continue to believe I am separate from you, from God, from everything.
It is Christmas morning here in on the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee. Merry Christmas Everyone! Happy Channukah for those who celebrate this Jewish festival of light and Happy Kwanza for those celebrating this later in the week. The day here is quite still; a little overcast but quiet; wintry but very pleasant.
I was walking our 2 small dogs just a while ago after they had eaten their breakfast. It is sunny, brisk (upper 30s to low 40s) with a very light breeze. However, I was not enjoying the day. I was thinking of this message I had to finalize before posting it. I was thinking of the phone call we received from my cousin yesterday morning. This is a common error I make – being focused on some future or past event, rather than being focused on what is around me now. My thinking creates a Now that exists in the universe-between-my-ears. To make matters worse, I believe it as being more “real” to me than the Now that is all around me.
Whatever I am thinking about IS the Now for me. If I’m thinking of the past generally I’m not simply remembering a past event, often I’m reliving that event. As I relive it, it becomes my Now. The same is true for future events. By bringing these non-existent thoughts into consciousness I have created an alternate universe (between my ears only) and am responding to it at the expense of everything else around me. Those thoughts are my Now. That’s my choice – that’s the universe I have chosen to perceive in my Now.
What I’m thinking about Now colors what I’m perceiving Now which creates my world Now. That is a very powerful (and for me, often damning) concept.
An example: If I’m living in a Now that consists of my remembrance of times I perceive I’ve been misunderstood or mistreated, it puts me in a Now whose reality is one of victimhood. I’m on a great big pity-pot. All my internal voices are versions of: “Why me?” “Poor me!” “Woe is me.” All these voices/thoughts color my perception which creates my world. Next thing I know, I’m driving into town and someone cuts me off and I perceive, once again, that some jerk is going to cause me to be late (accodingto my self-absorbed expectations). Again I’m back to a form of “Why me?” “Poor me!” “Woe is me.” Once again I’ve created a universe-between-my-ears where I am the ultimate victim. When I choose that universe, I AM a victim – I am the victim of myself and my thoughts – although that doesn’t stop me from blaming someone or something “out there.”
My cousin called yesterday morning about his Mom (my aunt). She has been living with him in Florida. She is almost 97. She is physically healthy but her mind cannot get off the idea that she must live at her home. Normal? Sure. But the “home” she remembers no longer exists. The “home” she wants to return to existed 60-70 years ago – alive with extended family, friends, church, health, food, and a joy of life. Because this remembrance is centered so strongly in her mind, it is her Now. Her son’s intention for her to live with him and be thoughtfully cared for is perceived as being forced to live in a prison against her will. I understand perfectly because I’ve been there. I’ve seen her lash out. I’ve seen her stubborness. I’ve experienced her growing dementia. It’s not severe enough to have her committed, but it is severe enough to make her impossible to live with.
My aunt’s situation is admittedly extreme – but it reinforces my point: What I’m thinking about Now colors what I’m perceiving Now which creates my world Now. This is true for my aunt, for my cousin, and for me. I believe it’s true for you, as well.
Back to Christmas.
Another truism in spiritual circles is the Divine is always present within me, although I am generally deaf to its voice. Whether we are in Christian spiritual traditions, Kaballah, Sufi, Eastern thought, New Thought religion, or A Course in Miracles, the issue is not whether we can conjure up the divine to do our bidding through prayer, supplication, or acts of contrition. The issue is can I eliminate the “noise” of my Ego-Thoughts so the divine can make itself “heard” in my mind, reminding me I am a spirit currently having a human experience and the world I perceive doesn’t really exist – it’s just my perception.
It can always be Christmas if I can learn to listen to the still, small voice of the Divine. When I listen and hear the divine, I know the divine Christ spirit is alive and well within me. Understanding that reality allows me to know it is Christmas morning all over again, and again, and again. I am always Bethlehem.
My Christmas Wish for you? Relish in this knowledge that the miracle in the manger can exist in your heart and mind Now – and Now – and Now.
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward or share this, if you choose.
#4 – December 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We Are One – But We Can't Find the Words To Talk About It

We are all one. We hear it often from Eastern religions or philosophies. We hear it, as well, in New Thought congregations or groups. We hear it from students in the Course in Miracles. We hear it in explanations of the intertwined fabric of Native American tribal life, thoughts, and spiritual concepts. We hear it in various 12-Step groups – each group united by the great leveler of its common addiction. We are all one.
In a recent issue of Miller-McCune magazine (September/October 2011 – there is an article entitled "Moral Injury" by Diane Silver. She writes:
Since Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was added to the diagnosis manual in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association "… the diagnosis has most often focused on trauma associated with threats to a soldier's life…. [Since then respected therapists have argued that the definition is too limited.] What sometimes happens in war may be more accurately called a moral injury – a deep soul wound that pierces a person's identity, sense of morality, and relationship to society. In short, a threat in a soldier's life." (p. 26, bold/italics are mine) The author goes on to quote Vietnam veteran John Fisher who vividly remembered the first time he shot an enemy soldier. "'I realized I had taken his soul away from him,’ Fisher says. 'In the process, my soul was gone.'" (p.28)
Fisher eventually went to Greece with Edward Tick, Director of Soldier's Heart, to visit the Kerameikos cemetery.  "Fisher sat on a knoll as Tick read an oration for the war dead that had been delivered on the same spot 2,500 years before. Fisher says he felt like he was floating, and he realized that his soul, his sense of self, had fled his body while he was in Vietnam. 'My heart felt like it was dark inside before. Now, it felt like someone had turned on the light.'" (p. 29).
Humankind is, in essence, one Spirit of which we are all little "parts" similar to the concept of a hologram. Each piece or "part" of a hologram contains the whole. We will truly understand that our spirits are all conjoined, when we develop the faculties to see with vision, rather than with anatomical eyes. It is the difference between defining ourselves as a spirit having a human experience, rather than a human being who – somewhere inside – has a spirit or soul.
Fisher’s is a description of the very visceral and experiential transformation that also happened to me, to others, and to those who had known Jesus 2,000 years ago. Although my personal experiences were entirely different from Fisher's and those earliest Christians, the reality of that experiential transformation is overwhelming. All of us had our lives changed. How can I explain that? How can I describe that kind of experience? The Course in Miracles simply says that kind of "Holy Instant" is beyond words and will transform your perception of life.
As an example, the cut and dried formulae for success in AA consists of working the Steps, getting a sponsor, honestly sharing in meetings, and praying. Some seem to “get it” pretty quickly and some don’t. Why? There is no definitive answer, but there are some pretty compelling observations. One is the difference between “comparing in” and “comparing out.” When members of the fellowship are comparing in, regardless of the specific details of someone’s story, they identify. They spot all the similarities between the speaker and themselves. When comparing out, listeners maintain their separateness and spot all the dissimilarities between the speaker and themselves. Sounds trivial. But it is a HUGE distinction. It is the difference between a developing abstinance with serenity, compassion, a sense of oneness, and understanding – called sobriety – and an abstinance without the development of an honest sense of oneness or spirituality – called being dry.
Why do some “get it” and some don’t? There is no answer to that. It simply occurs. I believe that those that seem to “get it” have had some form of spiritual transformation in the form of the removal of their sense of uniqueness. This allows them to truly be Honest, Open, and Willing – HOW. No one can really explain why person A readily compares in and person B does not. It is a miracle, itself, to be blessed with the ability to see yourself in virtually all stories. True sobriety does not happen without this kind of spiritual experience, which, when pressed for an explanation, will be met with a shrug, or a story, or an anecdote. In short, it is a sense of oneness beyond words. AA’s Big Book simply states, in Chapter 6, that if you are diligent in working the Steps, by the time you get to Steps Eight and Nine you will discover you have had a spiritual experience.
The authors of much of the New Testament were folks just like me and you who were trying their damnedest to explain the reality of this “oneness beyond words.” In Chapter Nine of my book – reiterated in my audio CD, The Gospel of Transformation – I tell the story of how a young man in an AA Eleventh Step meeting stormed out because we didn’t refer to our Higher Power as Jesus Christ. We had each told our stories of the reality of God, as we understood God, being the key to our sobriety. The spirit of the Almighty was looking the young man right in the face through the stories each of us told. He simpy refused to see because we were defining God as HP, Divine Love, or Ultimate Reality. The young man desperately wanted us to define our Higher Power as Jesus Christ as he had. The young man’s words, which made perfect sense to his Ego, absolutley blocked his ability to sense the presence of the Almighty.
So I try not to get too hung up on words. When I hear or read someone’s description of being transformed, I remember they are desperately trying to find a voice – albeit beyond words – to explain a reality that has transformed them.
I try not to get get too hung up on words. My words are of my Ego, which is warped, self-serving, and holds on to its perception of reality as Ultimate Truth. It disallows me to recognize someone else’s Truth. It keeps me believing I am separate or unique.
This whole discussion also reminds me of the adage: “I don’t have to believe everything I think.”
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward or share this, if you choose.
#3 – December 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living IN the world without being OF the world

Several weeks ago I ended my weekly message (Penn State, The Church, and my Ego – Part 2) with the following:
In short, what I learned is the critical importance of always trying to use 2 little words: "…for me." I came to understand that my thoughts of "right, normal, accepted, and Christian" were influenced more by my cultural/racial/educational/economic sense of identity than by dogma or some form of religiosity. I found if I could simply add the prepositional phrase "for me" to the end of most sentences, truth would begin to penetrate all the way to my True Self.  For example, rather than saying, "The Bible is the source of truth in spiritual issues," I began saying the Bible is my source of truth in spiritual issues because that makes sense for me."
Those 2 little words, “for me,” began opening the door for me to accept someone else's different perception of the rightness of things – cultural or spiritual – as being just as valid for them as my perception was for me.
That was the beginning of my spiritual journey. That's how it all started for me.
By adding the words “for me” or “to me” (depending on the context) I began to be more open to significant spiritual realities. I didn’t understand most of this while it was occurring to/in me. What I’m writing right now is from the benefit of almost 25 years of hindsight. However, when I am open to accept someone else’s different perception of the world and what is good, moral, and right, little miracles of spiritual reality begin to “pop” in my consciousness. During these little moments, time seems to stop, my worries fade into nothingness, my concentration isn’t distracted by random thoughts from my monkey mind, my focus is in the immediate Now. When I’m there, I am at peace. For a brief moment all the pieces of life’s seeming puzzle fit together and I am content. The Course in Miracles refers to these small moments as a “Holy Instant.”
All this, in effect, was what I was describing in last week’s message about my clump of creek muck.
[Some of you may not have seen all of my earlier messages. If you choose, you can go to my message archive to retrieve earlier messages. [ ] Simply click on Blog Archive.]
I heard a recent report on NPR about the use of mice in laboratories all over the world. My first thought: Who would have ever thought to do a study about this? Who cares? Then the gentleman proceeded to explain that it really does have an impact on the process of scientific exploration. If every lab in the world uses only mice, then the results of experimental drugs can be skewed. This made sense and it made me think: Don't we have to pay attention to this 3-dimensional world? The world of scientific discovery and validation? The world of our ego-perceptions? The world of power, prestige, money, wealth, and winning? Isn't it important?
How do we pay attention and maintain our focus on the cornerstone of our spiritual journey – that we are not humans with a spirit, but are loved, eternal spirits currently having a human experience?
Good questions. Really, really good questions.  Part of me right now simply wants to write: “If you have the answer, write me. I'll post it.” [LOL]
Think of a spectrum or scale. Living In the World is on the left side and Not Being Of the World is on the right side.
Where I try to draw the line between living in the world and not being of the world is a personal distinction I make for me. I must make that distinction constantly. My “distinction” will be different for you. It is different for my wife than for me. The line we draw as a couple is different from our individual lines and from other couples.
However, for me, the key issue is: The line is always moving.
A good indicator for me that my “line” needs adjusting is the reality of my serenity. My serenity is upset by my attachments – attachments to people, issues, expectations, ideas, or objects. The stronger my attachments the more my “line” moves toward the In-The-World end of the spectrum. The less serenity I feel, the more I know I am being buffeted by my Ego thought system. I will desperately try to fix the blame for my lack of serenity on people or events “out there” somewhere. But I know it’s all in how I am perceiving this world of mine. The more I perceive my Self as a human having a soul the more prone I am to a lack of serenity – the more fragile I am. The more I perceive my Self to be an already loved eternal spirit currently having a human experience, the more solid and dependable is my serenity.
I wish I could tell you my line never moves and that I have it all figured out and that I spend each day tip-toeing through the tulips as happy as can be. Alas, that ain’t the way it is! There are some days my line needs to be redrawn hourly. But there are more and more days where my line and me are on the same page and my serenity is palpable. Obviously, I like those days best – like the day when I really connected to my clump of creek muck [The Unity of Life – 12-04-2011].
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward or share this, if you choose.
#2 – December 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Unity of Life

Not too long ago I was out cleaning up the wet-weather creek that flows from the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area through our property. Our lots back up to this 80,000-acre preserve owned by the State of Tennessee. I was cleaning out sticks, wild water grasses and weeds. As I would pull a clump of vegetation the roots, all mired in creek muck, contained all sorts of bugs, beetles, and other tiny critters. Each clump of muck was its own little universe. It was a remarkable moment, as I tried to imagine life in that clump of muck from the perspective of the inhabitants.

In a short while I knew the muck would dry, the critters would either die or scatter, and the water vegetation would die. One day the creek muck is alive as its own little world and the next it is apparently dead. What happened? What's missing? What the heck is Life, anyway?

The Native American Indians – and, as far as I know, many other indigenous cultures e.g., Amazonian, Alaskan Inuit, Polynesian – have had an intrinsic reverence for this thing called Life. Attributed to their Great Spirit, Life was Life – whether in stones, deer, themselves, frogs, birds, plants, rain, or snow. Life was a mystery and was revered. Not some of life was revered some of the time. All life all the time. There was no hierarchy in Life. Human life was not more valuable than animal or plant life. Life was Life. It was a mystery. It was honored.

The Indians didn't consider their form of Life to be superior to another. They had no more right to be alive than a stone or a maize (corn) plant. This was not an intellectual deduction from repeated observations. This was embedded in their hunting, defending, family life, crafting, ceremonies. In short, it was their culture; it was who they were. They were at one with their world. Just a piece. Not superior. Not a user. Simply an interactive part of the whole system of Life.  They didn't see God's creation as something beneath them to be used. They simply saw themselves as one part of God's creation.

They were not above the environment; they were not users of the environment; they were an integral part of the environment. As I was sensing this unity I felt very, very peaceful and content. It was a ONEderful moment.

It's difficult for me to see this unity if I am not living in the Now. If I am obsessing on the future [I remember an AA definition of fear: Future Events Appearing Real] or if I am reliving a positive or negative past event, then my monkey mind is concentrating on my own self-created non-events. I will not notice those miniature revelations of the unity of life embedded in a universe of creek muck.

The following quote is from the novel, Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber, W.W. Norton & Company, 2003:

“Sirine is almost asleep as [her uncle] tells a story. ‘Not everyone knows this, but in addition to the real mountains there are purplish ghostly mountains that sleep behind them. And you should never look too closely for too long at just about anything unless you’re willing to let yourself perceive this other world, the world behind the senses, the world not of things but of immutable, unknowing being.’”

When I’m focused on the Now, I am open to the “…world not of things but of immutable, unknowing being.” I know that I’m very peaceful there. Maybe this is the Peace that passes all understanding – the peace that comes from experiencing “…the world behind the senses.” Maybe this is where we encounter and experience the Kingdom of Heaven, which is in you and all around you. (cf. Luke 17:20-21 (where the Greek can also be translated “…the kingdom of God is within you.”); Gospel of Thomas 3, 113).

Regardless, I find it amazing that somewhere deep inside me I found a calm, a peace, a serenity from an inside-me identity with a small clump of wet-weather creek muck.

Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward this, if you choose.


#1 – December 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Penn State, the Church and my Ego, Part 2

Last week I posted a message about the recent allegations and reported actions (or non-actions) of officials at Penn State University. I focused on the power of institutionalization and drew parallels to the process the early Church in determining what to include in the New Testament and to the recent scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church.
I also broadened this power of institutionalization to include the subtle power of my identification with race, with nationalism/patriotism, and with economic class. I concluded that if I am already a loved/accepted spirit simply having a human experience right now, it is easier (but not easy!) to keep my True Self separate from the institution with which I trade effort for pay/image/self-definition or from limiting concepts of nationalism, political persuasion, or perceived economic standing.
Since posting that message my thoughts kept coming back to my own initial experience of the power of identification and its influence on who I think I truly am.
I grew up in a small town in West Texas about 30 miles south of Lubbock. I went to some Texas colleges and experienced a little cultural broadening. All in all, my college experiences reflected a life basically the same as high school – same attitudes, same foods, same white students, same worship of sports.
Then I went to graduate school – the Presbyterian-affiliated Princeton (NJ) Theological Seminary. Since I had to work, I took a position as a Student Assistant Minister in a downtown Trenton (NJ) Presbyterian Church on Prospect Street. I worked with the congregation's youth and began an outreach program into the mostly black, mostly impoverished local neighborhood. After Seminary I took a position as a Street Gang minister – a position that was new and uncharted. I did that for two years before it almost destroyed my marriage.
What a wake-up call!  In the late 60's, culturally, Trenton's ghettoes were about as far away from West Texas as a person could get. Working as a street minister, however, taught me several very important lessons.
A group of concerned citizens in Princeton wanted to host a fund-raiser for my ministry. Most were members of Princeton's Episcopal Church. I was very grateful. However, for the first time in my life I was the VERY conspicuous minority. These Princeton residents, most of whom were black, were medical doctors or PhDs in biology or chemistry with the World Health Organization (WHO), senior analysts or managers with the United Nations, planning consultants with UNESCO, policy wonks with the Princeton Testing Service, physicists at Einstein's Institute for Advanced Study or with Princeton University itself. From the aspect of race I was the only white person there. From the aspect of economics I was the poorest paid. From the aspect of education there was only one other person – an Indian woman –who, like me, only had a Masters Degree. In terms of race, economic status, and education I was the little, poor, undereducated white guy. Talk about a blow to my ego! What kind of world was I living in? This was definitely not the world of "Leave It To Beaver."
I learned that Christianity is not synonymous with being a good little middle class Boy Scout. If I could've told churches that was my goal – to transform these angry young men into good little citizens, I would never have had a problem raising money for my independent-of-any-single-congregation ministry. But these were not aspiring little Boy Scouts. These were 17- to 24-year old, angry, young black men. They were proud of who they were and they violently resented attempts to make them Oreo cookies – black on the outside and white on the inside.
It was in Trenton, as it rioted following Martin Luther King's murder, that I came to understand:
·      The matriarchal nature of their society: I saw firsthand the inequities built into the administration of our political and religious/moral codes that kept husbands and fathers away from their homes so mom and the kids could get the help they needed. These policies applied to governmental assistance programs, as well as to private charitable organizations. So, in effect, our moral, Christian society was forcing the break-up the family unit in order to "help" them. We kind of did the same thing to Native Americans.
·      The middle class American whiteness of my interpretation of Protestant Christianity: I had learned, for example, to share my lunch with someone less fortunate. That's what loving your neighbor as yourself meant. What do you say to a whole group that has no lunch to share? To a group that steals to pawn to get money for lunch? To a group that steals to "get back at the system?" So I said, "Why not steal cereal, powdered milk, fresh fruit? At least you can have some lunch and you can take the remainder home for your little brothers and sisters."
·      The power of acceptance and the meaning of "caring and sharing," which became our motto: During the MLK riots, there was a curfew at night. During the day I would conspicuously walk the streets so people could see I was still there – I had not retreated into the suburbs. One of my guys, named Ronnie, came running after me one day, trying to drag me back to the pool parlor where I made my headquarters. His cousin had gotten a pistol and was looking for me. Ronnie was willing to risk his life (and his familial relationships) to shield me.
All of this played a significant role in laying the groundwork for my desire for a spiritual path as opposed to the pursuit of a sense of "rightness" stemming from my religious dogma. In short, what I learned is the critical importance of always trying to use 2 little words: "…for me." I came to understand that my thoughts of "right, normal, accepted, and Christian" were influenced more by my cultural/racial/educational/economic sense of identity than by dogma or some form of religiosity. I found if I could simply add the prepositional phrase "for me" to the end of most sentences, truth would begin to penetrate all the way to my True Self.  For example, rather than saying, "The Bible is the source of truth in spiritual issues," I began saying the Bible is my source of truth in spiritual issues because that makes sense for me."
Those 2 little words began opening the door for me to accept someone else's different perception of the rightness of things – cultural or spiritual – as being just as valid as mine.
That was the beginning of my spiritual journey. That's how it all started for me.
If all I've been saying rings true for you relative to getting to your True Self, then the reality of the power of your perception becomes unmistakable. If what's real about my world is simply my perception of it, then my world really doesn't exist. If that's the case, how can one really be IN this world but not OF it? What world are we talking about? My perception or yours? That's a great question and I'll address it in next week's message.
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward this, if you choose.
#4 November, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Penn State, the Church, and the New Testament

Listening to the recent Penn State University scandal in the headlines of the news I see a familiar old pattern. Institutions take on a life of their own and will vigorously defend any perceived threats to their continued existence. Most of us understand and believe this. Even though this force of institutionalization may be subtle and subdued, it is very powerful. This certainly applies to the Church – both early and current.
Based on what's appearing in the news concerning Coach Sandusky and the alleged child molestations, head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State University's management merely sent initial reports up the chain of command  (and thus off their plate?). Little else was done, or followed up on, which is against the law. [The law states that the first actions, in cases of suspected child abuse, are to call the police and child protective services] Why would they not do that? Perhaps the coaches and PSU officials thought the scandal would embarrass or tarnish PSU's image and reputation. Bad press might follow. Alumni contributions might flag. Sports recruiting might suffer. On and on. These kinds of potential consequences are very scary to those in power who had allowed their personal identity to blur into the institution of Penn State.
I'm not simply judging Penn State from the vantage point of 20/20 hindsight, but to remind me of the power of institutionalization. To the extent I remain oblivious to the institutions and cultural mores I use to define myself is the extent I remain stuck in my ego-based perceptions and my ego's belief that it's really in control.
I spent a significant amount of time in my book explaining how the early Church, as it began to be institutionalized, focused on the documents/writings that became more and more important to include as the powers-that-be were finalizing the NT contents. What were these documents/writings? Those that supported the growing embryonic church and its focus on appropriate organizational structure, theological doctrine, male dominance, and social mores. I even concluded that the power of institutionalization is an underlying force in the New Testament that needs to be recognized and acknowledged in order to understand its content.
When we look back on the past decade or so, we see the power of institutionalization in the Roman Catholic Church as they attempted to deal with priests that horribly abused their power and influence with young boys and men. The Church's first response? Keep it from the public. Keep it hidden. Keep those contributions coming in. Hope and pray that it will magically go away. In short, protect the institution. Same with Penn State.
It is rather normal that, after a while, your security (job, salary, bonus, retirement), your identity (your house, car, neighborhood, investments, eateries, vacation destinations) and your self-worth become confused with the institution you work with/for. A threat to the institution can become a threat to your self-image (your ego's definition of who you are). Slowly, your concept of self and your institutional position have melded into one. Consequently, your initial response/reaction to a threat is to defend, deny, or minimize – for the sake of the institution. Under these circumstances, the lure of institutional identification dulls our awareness of our Spiritual Nature.
In addition to institutional identification, the same process can be documented for identification with race, with nationalism/patriotism, with economic class. For example, I'm white, I'm middle class, I'm a college graduate, I'm an American, I'm politically independent, etc. All these attributes are often used to define my die-hard concept of self to the detriment of the conscious awareness of my True Self. My Ego really believes it's in control and must do/believe certain things in order to save my soul/spirit that's somewhere inside me. For me, that's a BIG step backward on my spiritual journey.
However, if I am already a loved/accepted spirit simply having a human experience right now, it is easier (but not easy!) to keep my True Self separate from the institution from which I trade effort for pay/image/self-definition or from limiting concepts of nationalism, political persuasion, or perceived economic standing.
I really do try to keep my True Self separate from my varied social attributes. But to try it I must maintain awareness of my True spiritual nature. My acute awareness of my True Self must not be dulled by the lure of all forms of institutionalization.
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward this, if you choose.
#3 November, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Audio CD Clip Is Now Available

I just approved the final reading of the audio CD - an abridgment of my book. I also approved the final artwork for the front and back covers of the CD. I am assured that it will be available soon at Infinity Publishing and on iTunes.

Go to my Website [ ] and click on the free 7 to 8-minute sample from the CD.

Thanks, Don O'Dell

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Difference Between being Religious and being Spiritual

The question I am most often asked – and still have a difficult time arriving at a simple, straightforward answer – is: "What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual."
Three ideas or answers generally surface as I think of my answer to that question:
  1. AA old-timers used to say, "Religion is for those who are desperately trying not to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those, like us, who have already been to Hell and don't want to go back." We'd all generally laugh.
  2. Spirituality is a state of being that comes from a truth that is acquired without the use of your five physical senses. Many call it intuitive knowing. It is that knowledge that just "pops" into you, and once it does, you know it to be true for you and you know you know it.
  3. Religion is a systematic dogma that supports your concept of rightness – concepts that are grounded in the belief that you are a distinct human being having, somewhere inside you, a soul or spirit. Spirituality is an intuitive knowing that you are already a loved and accepted spiritual being that is simply having a current human experience.
One of the principle tenets in New Thought congregations is "Thoughts are things."
If your thoughts are consistently about the "reality" of this life, then you perceive yourself as a human that has a soul/spirit. Most of us do not feel at peace. Rather, we feel threatened, angry, fearful, on-edge, wary. As I stated in last week's message, we believe in the duality of our perceived world: good/evil, right/wrong, light/darkness, God/Devil, birth/death, strong/weak, beginning/ending, love/fear, peace/anger, win/lose, plenty/scarcity, oneness/separation.
Giving voice and re-action to these kinds of thoughts simply continues to reinforce our perceived reality of this world.
If your thoughts, in a non-judgmental way, are consistently about your thoughts, then you are beginning to perceive yourself as a spirit having a human experience. You are beginning to comprehend that the reality you see and respond to is merely the reality you perceive. Change your perception and your reality changes.
Early in AA I came to understand that I cannot control people, places or things. The only thing I can control – at least sometimes – is my attitude or my outlook. If I stay focused on what I believe my true mission is then my world changes. Car batteries seem to work, bosses seem to listen. Financial issues get resolved. Relationship issues, as well, get resolved.
What is my mission? To stay sober and be in a position to help another alcoholic. Over more than 20 years of sobriety, I now find that I have broadened my mission to include those who seem to be stuck in their ego-centric worldview; those who define their perception of the world in terms of their personal dualistic view of reality – perceptions of right/wrong, good/bad, righteous/evil, God/Devil, birth/death, strong/weak, beginning/ending, love/fear, peace/anger, win/lose, plenty/scarcity.
If my "world" changes when I refocus on my mission and change my perception, then yours can, too. The Course in Miracles teaches that this change of perception is the beginning of the process of atonement – the miracle that will alter your life forever. The miracle that allows you to perceive yourself from an intuitive knowing that you are already a loved and accepted spiritual being that is simply having a current human experience. A state of spirituality rather than an acknowledgment of religious doctrine.