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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thank You!

For the first time in recent memory, I completely understand the meaning of the word ‘surreal’.  Have you ever had the feeling that you must be living inside someone else’s body; that what you are living just cannot be your experience?  Have you ever found yourself saying something and while you are saying it, you hear words coming out of your mouth, yet what you are saying just does not make sense?  It’s like living a waking dream.

I experienced something like that this past weekend as I met with the Board of Trustees to tell them I am leaving Unity of Arlington at the end of May and moving to Denver, Colorado to become the new Spiritual Leader at Unity Church of Denver.  As I sat there in the room sharing the news with them, it seemed as though I was having an “out of body experience.”  After I left the meeting with the Board, I called and personally visited with other leaders in the church, as well as friends, in order to share the same information with them.  I know I was there, and I know I was talking, but what I was saying seemed too outlandish to be true.  If that wasn’t enough, I shared the news out loud from the platform at both services on Sunday morning. 

I heard myself saying the words, yet there was something in my mind that said, “What?! How can you be saying that you are leaving Unity of Arlington?  This must be a dream.”  Yes, I came to understand the full meaning of surreal.  I was living it.

I also sent a letter by email on Sunday afternoon announcing my decision.  If you did not receive it, you can read it by clicking here.  Yes, I am leaving Unity of Arlington to become the Spiritual Leader at Unity Church of Denver.  Even now, typing those words, it still seems strange, but it is real, not a dream. 

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for all that I have learned and the many ways I have grown in the past six years.  This community has encouraged me in many ways, not the least of which is the support I received on my path to becoming a Licensed Unity Teacher, which by the way is now official.  I received the email on Monday. 

I am also touched by the outpouring of support and encouragement I received on Sunday and have continued to enjoy through emails and phone calls during the past few days.  This is an amazing community of caring, loving people.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have been and all you continue to be in my life.

I know, too, that my announcement stimulated some pain, anger and other emotions for some.  I completely understand that, and it is important to me that you know I am available to hear from you as well.  I know you love me and support me.  I also know that change can be difficult and sometimes painful.  I want you to know that I love you, and I am here to support you.  Please call me if you would like to talk or just need to vent. 

I truly believe that Unity of Arlington is in a strong and secure place from which to continue growth and expansion.  The Board of Trustees is committed to doing whatever it takes to help ensure continued vitality and cohesive operations of the ministry.  They are currently formulating plans to bring in guest speakers and engage the fine arts department to participate more often in the Sunday morning services.  The Board members will also be more active in the business aspects of the ministry with the capable assistance of Sarah Byrd in the office.  I am sure they will be calling upon the community as needs arise.  I am certain that everyone is willing to do their part for the well-being of Unity of Arlington.  You are in good hands.

I will mourn leaving you beautiful expressions of God who are Unity of Arlington.  And, I will celebrate with you as you continue to evolve and brightly shine your light.

While I mourn leaving, I also celebrate the opportunity to connect with Unity Church of Denver.  We are all serving the divine vision and legacy of our founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and together we are Unity.  We are, and shall always be, One.

I am awake.  This is not a dream.  This is my life.  It’s our life.  Let’s own it together.  I love it.  I love you.  It is all Good!  Thank you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Divine is like the Wind

“The Divine is like the wind: It enters through whatever window we open for it and sometimes through cracks we didn’t know existed.”  Philip Goldberg
I live in a house built in 1954 which still has most of the original windows and doors that allow for a great deal of draftiness.  If you are familiar with casement, single-pane windows and louvered glass doors you know what I am talking about.  When sitting inside on a windy day one can definitely feel the breeze.  So, when Goldberg uses the analogy of the Divine as wind entering through any opening available I get the sense of what he is talking about.  However, it is important to point out that the Divine, as we know it, is never absent, so It does not need to enter.  Rather it is the awareness of the Divine that is like the wind and will enter through the slightest crack.

Although, we often do not recognize it, each moment is fraught with opportunity to open to the conscious awareness of the Divine, and every aspect of our humanity is a portal to it.  Every thought is a window; every sensory perception a gate; and every emotion a door.  However, we often have the house of our consciousness so tightly closed off that we are unable to perceive the movement of the Divine in our daily lives.

Thoughts are not personal: they arise in the field of Infinite Mind and we have access to them all.  Not one of us has ever had an original thought.  All thoughts are recycled communal property.  They are not ours unless we attach ourselves to them and begin to believe them.  When we avail ourselves of the opportunity to observe a thought, rather than claim it as our own, we open the window through which the Divine enters.  Allowing ourselves to become the “silent watcher” creates the opening.  And, the great thing about thoughts is that they happen continuously giving us multitudes of openings each day.

Brain research has shown that our memory of past experiences greatly impacts how the brain interprets stimuli from the physical senses.  When we see, taste, touch, hear or smell anything our memory of it has a profound impact on what we perceive.  For example, if one smells a rose, expecting to encounter a sweet bouquet of fragrance, the mind will conjure the memory of the scent even if there is none present.  The same is true of the ways in which we perceive the phenomenal world that we encounter every moment.  Allowing ourselves to truly “stop and smell the roses” opens the gate through which the awareness of the Divine may enter.  Rather than casually encountering the world around us and assuming that we know what we are seeing, touching, tasting, smelling and hearing, we can slow down enough to be present with whatever is before us in the moment and fully experience it, giving ourselves permission to touch, taste, smell, hear and see the Divine in all things, fully present, fully aware.

Just as thoughts and senses are openings, emotions also offer us doorways to the awareness of the Divine.  Many of us in Unity have become accustomed to using denials to assist us in releasing the power of negative thoughts, thus affecting our emotional state in positive ways.  For some, denial has taken on a psychological context not in keeping with the original intent, meaning that rather than using denials to deny the reality of negative thoughts or the permanence of so-called “negative” feelings, we use denial to deny our experience of feelings that we consider to be “negative.”  For example, we may think that feeling angry is not “spiritual” so we deny that we feel angry.  This is not the intent of the spiritual practice of denial.  Attempting a “spiritual bypass” which is our effort to move quickly to peace, thereby avoiding any “negative” emotional state, only serves to keep us stuck.  When we are truly willing to feel our emotions, whatever they may be, and go deeply into the experience of whatever we are feeling in the moment, we open the doorway to the experience of the Divine present in the moment.  Being willing to delve into all emotions, including a “negative” emotion, is an act of Self-Love that opens the doorway to transcendence and realization.

Some philosophies teach that our humanity is just an illusion.  Even if we believe that, each us of is living the experience of it for now.  So, at least until we transcend our humanity, we might as well make the best use of it as possible.  Let us choose to allow our humanity to be the opening through which the wind of the Divine, and our awareness of it flows freely.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Seven Last Words

This is Holy Week and in the Christian tradition it is observed as the final week in the physical life of Jesus. It began with Palm Sunday, and includes what is commonly known as the Passion of Christ, as well as the crucifixion. As we observe Holy Week and make our final preparations to celebrate new life on Easter Sunday, we honor Jesus, our brother, and view his journey to the cross analogous with our journey toward realization of our Truth.
In Unity, we honor Jesus as the way shower. We teach that he was here to show humanity the way to freedom from the bondage and suffering caused by our belief in separation; he did so through teaching and by modeling the Truth. We view the Passion of Christ as symbolic of the suffering we endure as a result of our belief in separation, and the crucifixion as a representation of the process through which we release from our consciousness the ideas that separate us from Truth.
Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore, said "The word crucifixion means the crossing out in consciousness of certain errors that have become fixed states of mind." Jesus' physical crucifixion symbolizes the "crossing out" of worldly consciousness. The resurrection symbolizes a new awakening to Truth, the Truth that each of us is an expression of the One Power and One Presence that Jesus called "the Father" when he said, "The Father and I are one." Charles Fillmore said, "True resurrection within us lifts up all the faculties of mind until they conform to the absolute ideas of Divine Mind. This mental renewal makes a complete transformation of the body, so that every function works in divine order and every cell becomes incorruptible and immortal."

The "Sayings of Jesus on the Cross," also known as "The Seven Last Words of Christ" are seven expressions that Jesus is reported to have uttered during his crucifixion. The sayings are gathered from the four Canonical Gospels in the Bible. When we view them as a continuation of his teaching, they offer us some insight into understanding the crucifixion as a process of "letting go and letting God"; a process that we can embrace and consciously experience for ourselves, in consciousness. I offer the following as a suggested spiritual practice using the "The Seven Last Words" to help facilitate our own surrender from the bondage and suffering of our belief in separation.

(1) Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

Forgiveness in Aramaic, unlike in Greek, is not something that one does for another, but it is an internal process of allowing the acceptance of the Truth (the Father) to free us from our attachments to thoughts, to form, and to the past.

Ask yourself: Where am I bound by attachments to my thoughts, beliefs, perceived mistakes, and judgments?

Affirm: I am free from all limiting thoughts and judgments. I untie the knots that bind me.

(2) Luke 23:43 "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

In the story of Jesus’ crucifixion there were two others on crosses as well, one on either side. One of them said to Jesus, "If you are really the son of God save yourself and save us, too." The other said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The first was aware only of his current experience. He was focused on his physical condition. The other was aware of something more, something beyond.  His focus was “the kingdom." He recognized that Jesus was not giving a dispensation in his reference to paradise.  In that moment, in this conscious recognition, he was in the consciousness of heaven, and he was reflecting his own awareness and confirming that his recognition of the Truth in that moment had set him free.  He was already with Jesus in" Paradise."

Ask yourself: In what ways am I focusing solely on my physical experience and not serving my Eternal Truth?"

Affirm: In this moment, I commit myself to serving my Truth. The Truth of my being sets me free.

(3) John 19:26 "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple whom he loved, "Behold your mother."

Not only was Jesus honoring his biological mother, he was also recognizing the spiritual brotherhood of the disciples. It is statement of Oneness. We are all each other's mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Blood does not determine our kinship. We are One in the family of God.  Separation is not a Truth.

Ask yourself: Where do I separate myself from others with labels of gender, nationality, race, religion, or age? What other labels of separation do I assign?

Affirm: I am One with all life.

(4) Matthew 27:46 "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

The Lamsa Bible translates this phrase as, "My God, my god, for this I was spared." In other words, "It is for this purpose that I am here." Jesus had stated his purpose earlier when being interrogated by Pilate, as quoted in John 18:37, "For this I was born, and for this very thing I came into the world, that I may bear witness concerning the Truth. Whoever is of the Truth will hear my voice."

Ask yourself: Where in my life am I not bearing witness to the Truth; the Truth of Oneness with God and with all creation?

Affirm: For this I came into the world, to bear witness to the Truth of Oneness.

(5) John 19:28 "I thirst."

Our greatest desire is to know ourselves as God expressing. It is for that and for that only that we truly "thirst." Often we search for the experience of God in people, places and things. There is nothing in the external that can satisfy our thirst for God. Recall the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. He said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water which I give him shall never thirst; but the same water which I give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to life everlasting." (John 4:13-14)

Ask yourself: Where do I attempt to satisfy my "thirst" for God by attempting to "drink" from the well of the world of form, whether that is money, another person, status, or any other form of attachment?

Affirm: All that I desire is here and now present as the Life of God within me.

(6) John 19:30 "It is finished."

The physical work is done. The surrender is complete. I let go and I let God.

Ask yourself: Where am I still holding on? What am I not willing to release?

Affirm: I let go and I let God.

(7) Luke 23:46 "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

The transformation is done.

Ask yourself: Am I ready and willing to embrace myself as Christ?

Affirm: I embrace myself as Christ.

As we surrender the myths, messages and beliefs that limit our full acceptance and expression of the Truth, we allow the crucifixion to take place in our consciousness, and we are resurrected into new life as the conscious awareness of the Christ we are.  Now is a perfect time to begin our resurrection.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Self Addiction

There are times in our lives, when we to say to ourselves, to another, or to the Universe, “Enough is enough!”  We want something different.  What we are experiencing is too painful, too much, not in our best interest, or not what our spirit is calling us to do or be.  Getting to a point of saying “enough is enough” and being ready to experience something different is the first step toward affecting a meaningful change in our lives.  However, change does not happen simply by wanting it to happen.  It requires us do something different.  We often attempt to change the condition by maneuvering the external:  we change jobs, relationships, or locations.  These may affect temporary change, but in order to affect lasting change we must change our beliefs, and our beliefs are simply thoughts that we continue to think and give energy to.

It is a simple truth, and it is not always an easy thing to do.  In many ways changing our habitual thinking is like recovering from an addiction.  Just as we can become addicted to a substance, we can become addicted to ways we think about ourselves, others, and the Universe.

I admit it: I am addicted to caffeine.  By drinking coffee every morning for years, I have conditioned my body and emotions to the effects of caffeine.  In simple terms, caffeine causes increased neuronal firing in the brain that sends signals to the body to which the body reacts by increasing the heart rate, increasing blood flow to muscles, and accelerating many bodily functions.  It is a stimulant.  I feel good when I have my caffeine in the morning.  If I do not have caffeine every morning, my body reacts. It reacts with a headache and sluggishness.  I feel irritable as well. The body and the emotions get accustomed to feeling the sensations of the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) stimulated by caffeine and it rebels when those chemicals are removed.  A similar process happens in the brain as a result of our thinking.  The brain is constantly firing neurons and releasing neurotransmitters in response to our thoughts.  And, our emotions and body respond. 

As we begin to understand how the brain functions, scientists are learning that by changing our thinking, we not only change neurotransmitters, we can change neural network pathways, thereby changing our physical and emotional responses.  Each of us has habitual ways of thinking about ourselves, others, the Universe and ways in which they are all related.  Fearful thoughts, which include worry, judgment, blame, criticism and the like, produce chemicals that cause us to feel anxious, agitated, or depressed; while thoughts of love, which include acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude, release chemicals to which the body and emotions respond with peace, affection, and compassion.   Just as the emotions and the body become accustomed to the effects of caffeine or other substances, so do they become accustomed and adjusted to the effects of our thoughts.

If the chemicals change or are absent, the body and emotions react.  The body and emotions do not know what to do with this new information.  Emilie Cady in Lessons in Truth refers to this process as “chemicalization.”  If one is accustomed to feeling depressed, angry or sad, due to a habitual way of thinking and being in the world, it is going to feel strange to be peaceful, joyful and free.  Even though it might seem that experiencing these new feelings would be a relief, it often stimulates discomfort and a temptation to revert to the known way in order to recreate the familiar. 

Understanding the reason it is sometimes difficult to affect lasting changes in our lives may help us to have compassion for ourselves when it seems that change is not happening as quickly or as easily as we would like.  Knowing that it is part of the process, may also help us move through the discomfort. Lasting changes in our lives result from a change in consciousness, and a change in consciousness requires a renewing – a different way of thinking.  Are you ready to make that change?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Inspired Action

In the Gospel of John 5:30, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I can do nothing of myself; for I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Lamsa).  What Jesus was saying, I believe, is that he was not attempting to receive or achieve anything of his own desire.  Instead, he was allowing himself to be the expression of the Spirit of all Life, which he at times called “Abba,” an Aramaic word which translates to English most closely as “Father” or “Beloved Parent.”  He claimed that he was not performing the demonstrations that others believed to be miracles, but that Life (God) was expressing as him, thus it was the Father within that was “doing the work.”

Jesus never claimed to be unique.  He taught that each of us can do even greater things than he did.  However, it is not by personal effort and struggle that we can accomplish greater things than Jesus did.  We can do so by following his example and allowing Life to have its life as us.  We can achieve great things by allowing the Spirit within to inspire our actions. 

I have devised the three questions below that we can ask ourselves to help determine if we are engaged in inspired actions.   

Am I present?

Often, I have observed that in the midst of doing something, whether reading a book, driving my car, or writing a newsletter article I will suddenly realize that my mind has been focused on something totally unrelated to the project at hand.  I may have been thinking about what I did yesterday or what I will be doing tomorrow.  I find at times that I do not give my full attention and energy to the moment.

Inspired action calls us to be fully present in the moment.  When we bring our total awareness to every moment and every action, we bring the fullness of Life to all we do.

Am I enriching and sustaining life?

As I observe our Mother Earth, I recognize that she is replete with all the elements and nutrients required to support life, and she freely shares all that she is without attachment to how it is used or what, if anything, manifests from her giving.  Simply by allowing Life to express naturally, the Earth supports and nurtures all life.

Our doing in the world is meant to nurture and enrich all life, all living beings, including ourselves.  When we can be, as Jesus was, simply vessels through which Life gives of itself without any thought to personal gain or attachment to the outcome, we are then engaged in inspired action.

Am I enthusiastic?

The word enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek – en and theos, meaning God.   Enthusiasm does not simply mean that we are in God or that God is in us.  The greater meaning is that we are so filled with the awareness of God as our very life that we experience the fullness of joy in every moment.  When joy imbues all that we do, we are experiencing inspired actions.

When we surrender the idea that there is a ‘self’ separate from God and we embrace the awareness that we are the very Life of God expressing in every moment, we will realize that all we ever need “do” is to allow the full expression of Life in every moment.  As we let go and let God, we live in the consciousness of heaven and we bring the fullness of heaven to the manifested form. 

I encourage us to ask these three questions of ourselves anytime we are experiencing anything other than perfect joy in our “doing” and allow the answers that are revealed in the silence of our own hearts to restore us to living lives of “inspired action.”