Sunday, July 31, 2016

Political Conventions and Peacefulness

To maintain my sense of inner peace, calm and serenity, I ask the God of my understanding each morning to direct my thinking and then try to meditate. I then pray a gratitude prayer for another day of sobriety each evening.  When I am a little tense, as I was following the conventions, it is difficult for me to calm my mind in meditation.
At a recent Course in Miracles (ACIM) meeting I was reminded of the Course’s guide to meditation, It states in several places, primarily in the Wordbook for Students, step-by-step directions for meditating. One of the more straightforward discussions occurs in Lesson 189: I feel the Love of God within me now. [Italicized emphases are mine]
1 There is a light in you the world cannot perceive. And with its eyes you will not see this light, for you are blinded by the world. Yet you have eyes to see it. It is there for you to look upon. It was not placed in you to be kept hidden from your sight. This light is a reflection of the thought we practice now. To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.
2 Who could feel fear in such a world as this? It welcomes you, rejoices that you came, and sings your praises as it keeps you safe from every form of danger and of pain. It offers you a warm and gentle home in which to stay a while. It blesses you throughout the day, and watches through the night as silent guardian of your holy sleep. It sees salvation in you, and protects the light in you, in which it sees its own. It offers you its flowers and its snow, in thankfulness for your benevolence.
3 This is the world the Love of God reveals. It is so different from the world you see through darkened eyes of malice and of fear, that one belies the other. Only one can be perceived at all. The other one is wholly meaningless. A world in which forgiveness shines on everything, and peace offers its gentle light to everyone, is inconceivable to those who see a world of hatred rising from attack, poised to avenge, to murder and destroy.
4 Yet is the world of hatred equally unseen and inconceivable to those who feel God's Love in them. Their world reflects the quietness and peace that shines in them; the gentleness and innocence they see surrounding them; the joy with which they look out from the endless wells of joy within. What they have felt in them they look upon, and see its sure reflection everywhere.
5 What would you see? The choice is given you. But learn and do not let your mind forget this law of seeing: You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death's sharp-pointed, bony fingers. If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and of love.
6 Today we pass illusions, as we seek to reach to what is true in us, and feel its all-embracing tenderness, its Love which knows us perfect as itself, its sight which is the gift its Love bestows on us. We learn the way today. It is as sure as Love itself, to which it carries us. For its simplicity avoids the snares the foolish convolutions of the world's apparent reasoning but serve to hide.
7 Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.
Trust me, I’m not a perfect meditator. But when I do this observing-of-my-human-self well, the time really speeds by. A 30-minute meditation will seem like it lasted only 5 minutes. Otherwise a 30-minute meditation seems to last an hour.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to my Holy Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

#1 Aug 2016

Copyright 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Feelings Are Not Facts – Unless You Want Them To Be

When I was an elementary school student – maybe 4th or 5th grade – my older brother and I went to see “The Thing from Another World,” with James Arness (Matt Dillon of ‘Gun Smoke’ fame) in his first role as the “Tbing.” It was scary to us. You have to remember this was in the early 1950s. As we walked home that evening, it was dark and the streets of Artesia, NM were dark and deserted. We tried to ignore our frightened feelings. We walked slowly. Tried to whistle while we walked. Slowly, however, we moved off the sidewalk and out into the empty streets. Then our pace began to pick up a little – just a little, then a little more. Finally, a cat (or something) rattled a trash can, and – boy howdy -  we were off like rockets. We raced all the way home.
Our anxiety over monsters and invisible boogey men had finally been responded to with our running bodies and suddenly the feelings we had had become facts. The faster we ran, the scareder we became.
I think each of you can identify with that phenomenon.
There are helpful emotions we all harbor. These can all be boiled down to emotions tied to Love or to Fear. Each emotion, however, is like a diamond having many light-catching facets. Love consists of the major sub-emotions of Acceptance, Joy, Peace, Compassion, Courageousness, Serenity, etc. Fear consists of Apathy, Guilt, Anger, Hate, Lust, Envy, Pride, etc. But each of these sub-emotions consists of a variety of fleeting feelings.
For example, the sub-emotion Acceptance consists of appreciation, balance, consideration, delight, elation, friendly, gentle, gracious, mellow, open, playful, tender and understanding. The sub-emotion Anger consists of being argumentative, defiant, frustrated, harsh, hostile, impatient, mad, mean, petulant, rude, spiteful, stern, vengeful, and willful.
These feelings are not factual – unless I want them to be. When I begin to voice these feelings to others and they begin to join in the conversation with me, slowly these fleeting feelings become facts.
I cannot (nor do I want to) control my major emotions. Nor can I control having fleeting feelings. I can, however, control the transition from feelings-as-non-facts to feelings-as-facts. I can do that by acknowledging to myself that I am feeling thus and thus and reassuring myself that these are instant, fleeting egoic feelings. I do not suppress them, nor do I give voice to them. When I give these feelings voice, I give them a certain kind of reality. Slowly I begin down a very slippery emotional slope – just like my brother and I did when we began picking up our pace until we were running headlong out of sheer terror.
When I control this transition from feelings-as-non-facts to feelings-as-facts, I am reminding myself that I am not a body nor am I what I think. I am an already-loved eternal spirit (my True Self) simply having a human experience. I am cared for. I am loved. I am whole. I am Light. I am at one with all other living creatures. I am at peace.

#4 Jul 2016
Copyright 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

Anger Is The Public Face of Fear

In light of all that has happened in the last 10 days – Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Dallas, and now Nice, France – the statement that anger is the public face of fear is very apt. However, I have to admit to myself, that it is very difficult for me to see a “call for love” in the act of an angry person or religious zealot killing people.
A decade ago, I learned about a major shift in perception that was beginning to take place. People were saying that we were moving into the Age of Aquarius – the start of a 2,300-year cycle that would be governed by energy of the Feminine. We are coming out of a similar cycle that had been under the influence of Masculine energy. For the past 2,300 years we have been under the influence of the Age of Pisces. It has been estimated that this shift will take 50 or so years (ending about 2040) to transition. As this occurs, I was told, the old masculine energy – to protect its power, prestige, and way of governance – will not go quietly into the night. The seething underbelly of this masculine competitive energy (win/lose, abundance/lack) is fear. It is the fear of being left behind, of losing economic security, of losing power and influence, of becoming societal detritus, of becoming obsolete.
Perhaps, this may mean we will be moving from an economy based on competition to one based on cooperation. Perhaps, it will mean we are transforming from being homo sapiens to being homo noeticus. Perhaps, it will mean moving away from a social structure of separateness (Us versus Them) to one of perceived Oneness. Perhaps, it will be all of this.
This shifting from Masculine to Feminine energy and its attendant disruption may very well be what we’re seeing:
  • ·      ISIS and other fundamentalist Islamic groups making a last gasp effort to resurrect an out-dated image of literal Islamic rule;
  • ·      White male society making a last gasp effort to hold onto power and influence through political maneuvering or through organized hate groups by encouraging voter suppression, excessive gerrymandering, hoarding profits at all costs, and demeaning all people of color as well as all those of sparse economic status;
  • ·      Growing Protestant/Pentecostal extremism that has totally abandoned the Gospel of Love lived by Jesus for an Old Testament based biblical literalism that is almost indistinguishable from Islamic Sharia law – calling for the stoning, for example, of members of the LGBT community, abortion recipients/providers, prostitutes and other sexual “deviants,” and virtually treating all forms of poverty as if it were a sin to be condemned – the joining of capitalism, as an economic philosophy, with Christian ethics.

What do we do, then?
First we must ask God, genuinely, for a willingness to understand that the fear we think we see is merely our own fears being reflected back at us. It is always an “inside” job. We need to allow our inner light of peace, unity, and serenity to shine brightly in the midst of all this fear. We allow this light to shine by seeing ourselves in ALL of humanity – forgiving ourselves for our misperception and forgiving all those whom we have perceived as being hateful, bitter and wrong – the Others, the Enemy. Lastly, we need to remember, as ACIM teaches, each thought we have – no matter how tiny and fleeting nor how huge and seemingly permanent – is either contributing to our egoic perception of the reality of fear or to the True Reality of the Love of God, as we understand Him.
Once we are willing to change ourselves, the rest is up to God.
We need to be prepared to quell the morbid attention we pay to our own fearful thoughts. The attention I pay to my egoic thoughts is something I must acknowledge and ask for help to change. This is my responsibility alone. It is also yours.

#3 Jul 2016

Copyright 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The World of Separateness, Death and of Being Right

Following an AA meeting several months ago, a good friend in the Program asked me to stay a bit. He told me one of the people he was currently sponsoring just went back out and resumed his drinking. He went on to tell me how difficult it was to communicate with his sponsee.
“He says he’s very spiritual and quotes Bible verses to me all the time. He says he prays to Jesus a lot in addition to reading the Bible, and so he believes he’s very spiritual. I have tried to explain to him that if he’s developed a true spirituality in the AA Program, the desire to drink will be lifted. What do I do?”
I told my friend there is a huge difference between being spiritual and being religious. Being religious is all about believing in the rituals, practices, cognitive beliefs, and the magical words of the Bible – or the Quran or the Tanakh. Because my friend regularly attends a Big Book meeting, I went on to provide my friend with an analogy.
“You’ve been to Big Book meetings before, haven’t you?”
“It’s as if,” I commented, “we had a group of non-AA folks stand outside the room and observe our Big Book meeting. What would they see? They’d watch each of us read a paragraph of one of the stories of recovery in the Big Book  (Alcoholics Anonymous, AA World Service) and then go back around the table offering some comments. These watchers might go on, perhaps, and conclude: ‘Hey, we could do that. We could get some friends together and read a story and make comments on what the story talked about. That way we won’t become alcoholics.’ We both know that wouldn’t work, don’t we?”
“It’s not what we do.”
“That’s right. It’s not what we do. When we are commenting on the stories, we are not making observations about what the story-teller said. We are commenting about the similarities of our own experiences with the experiences of the writer. As each of us tell our very unique story, triggered by the story in the Big Book, we all understand that, as unique as each of our stories is, they are all the same story. We are not sharing our ideas about the words of the story-teller. We are simply sharing our unique version of the same story. All of our stories are unique, but all of our stories say the same thing.”
This is what I tried to deal with in my book, How the Bible became the Bible. We read the Bible not to intellectually dissect the words of the author – as if the words are something super-natural. We read the words of the author and find ourselves understanding the experience the author was writing about. We, too, have had that experience and, although we might express it uniquely and differently (because of our different culture, mores, values, and timeframe), it is the same story. We do not read from a letter written by the Apostle Paul to cogitate over his wording. We read one of his letters to understand the marvelous mystery that he had experienced and was now wrestling with as to how to express that reality in words. We would comment on the marvelous mysteries we’ve experienced, and usually we would find it equally difficult to express in words.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states that to communicate these kinds of experiences is simply beyond words. That’s why I love the introduction to the Course:
This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks [my egoic perceptions] to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.
ACIM is a course in “undoing” and removing my ego thought-system of duality. It’s a course in mind training. Collectively, we are the Son of God, and when the Holy Spirit changes our perception, we can live in a community of love and acceptance. To live in the womb of an accepting community will transform each of us. This is what AA has done for me. A place, wherever I find a meeting, that allows me to be just as I am – honestly. It is a place where I am accepted. [Being accepted is a more meaningful synonym for love for me.]  AA’s Program is not about memorizing the words or stories of the Big Book. It is to work the Twelve Steps in absolute honesty. It is to turn my life and will over to the care of God, as I understand God, by working Steps 4-12 for the rest of my life.  Doing this, I underwent a spiritual transformation. To quote the Big Book – or to memorize and quote the Bible – is to remain in my ego thought-system of duality, sin and separateness, both from others and from God.
When I drank I was in that world of separateness and it was a world of death. When I fall back into my ego thought-system of the “rightness” of my perceived sense of reality, I fall back into that same world of death. I want, now, to be happy and peaceful, not right. Perhaps that’s why so many fundamentalist Christians (or Moslems or Jews) seem always to be so angry, resentful, irritated and frustrated.

#2 Jul 2016

Copyright 2016