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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Listen and Follow

Over the course of the past few weeks, as I have been making preparations for our move from Arlington to Denver, I have been sorting through closets, store rooms, boxes and files in an attempt to clear out things that I am now willing to release.  In the process, I have come across many things that have caused me to question, “Why? Why did I ever hold on to this in the first place?”  Those items are easily tossed in the trash, recycled or donated to charity.  However, I have also discovered several belongings that are not so easily discarded.  Some discoveries have stimulated fond memories.  A few precious items have served to remind me of life choices I made years ago, decisions that while not always a part of my conscious awareness, have been guiding my life since.

In 1999, I received an ordination from The Alliance of Divine Love.  At the time, I was attending Cathedral of Light, a Religious Science church.  Reverend Kay Hunter was, and still is, the Senior Minister there.  During a Sunday service in 2000, much to the chagrin of the leadership of what was then the United Church of Religious Science, she honored several of us in her congregation who had been “called” to ministry.  I will forever be grateful to Rev. Kay for her decision to honor the inner call of Spirit even though by doing so she was criticized and censured by the Religious Science hierarchy for recognizing ordination outside of the organization.  She was, and my guess is that she still is, a rebel. 

In sorting through a box of papers this week, I discovered an envelope with “Rev. David” printed on it.  Inside I found three half sheets of colored paper imprinted with excerpts from various texts.  I immediately recognized them as quotes Rev. Kay shared during the service that Sunday in 2000. As I read them, I was especially touched by the quote from A Course in Miracles, which says,
“I am here only to be truly helpful.  I am here to represent God who sent me.  I do not have to worry about what to say or do, because God who sent me will direct me.  I am content to be where God wishes, knowing that God goes there with me.”
Reading this passage again reminded me of the commitment I made years ago, to do my utmost best to listen for the still, small voice, the impulse of Creative Life Force moving in me, as me, and to follow the urging of the God of my being to do what I am “called” to do.   And, while I may not and often do not understand the reason, I strive to move forward with faith knowing that all I need is provided in every moment as I am open to allow and receive it. 

Since 2000, I have followed my calling to the best of my ability, at times more willingly than at others.   I followed the call to Unity Church of Arlington in 2008, even though at the time I did not see how it was possible for someone with no Unity “credentials” to become the Spiritual Leader of a church.  However, through the persistence of the “search and found committee” and the congregation, the way unfolded, and I have enjoyed six years as Spiritual Leader.   At the time, I didn’t even know what it meant to be a Spiritual Leader of a Unity church.  Looking back now, I realize that I knew even less than I thought I knew.

Now, I am following the call to Unity Church of Denver to become the Spiritual Leader there.  I do not claim to know the reason or for what purpose I am being called from Arlington to Denver, but I feel the “call,” and I am content to be where God wishes.  I am doing my best moment by moment to keep my mind stayed on God, knowing that I do not need to worry about the “how.”  I simply must be open to the voice of God within, trusting that, as the ACIM quote above says, it will direct me in what to do and say.  I take comfort in believing that my experience has taught me a little more about what it means to be a Spiritual Leader.  And, although experience can be an important teacher, I remain committed to not allowing the past to determine the present or to adversely influence the future.  I am open to guidance of the Holy Spirit within.  With great anticipation, I stand with Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore, and affirm, “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth with a mighty faith to do the things that ought to be done by me.”

I am grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, especially those at Unity of Arlington.  Your love, appreciation and acceptance has encouraged me to follow my “call” and bolstered my commitment to “represent God who sent me.”  

As you move forward together, I encourage you to pause frequently to listen for the still, small voice for God that is constantly and consistently guiding you toward the fulfillment of the divine idea that is Unity of Arlington.  Do not be restricted by the dictates of “conventional wisdom” or limited by any past experience.  Trust the God within to direct you even in what may seem to be the most mundane decision.  As you do, I know that you will be serving the highest and best for all.  I will be watching with amazed delight at the ways you are showing up.  You will always be in my heart, and in my prayers.

From Love,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Who Am I?

Ramana Marshi, a great teacher in the yoga tradition, said that to attain inner freedom one must continually ask the question, “Who am I?”

Gangaji, in her book, The Diamond in Your Pocket – Discovering Your True Radiance, says, “The most important question you will ever ask yourself is, “Who am I?”  You may listen to an excerpt from the book by clicking the following link: Gangaji

Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth shares his story of awakening when one day he heard himself say, “I can no longer live with myself.”  As he heard himself speak those words, he wondered, “Who is the ‘I’ and who is the ‘self’ that ‘I’ can no longer live with?”  Thus began his journey to discovering his truth and claiming his freedom.

Who are you, really?  We often define ourselves by our bodies, whether we are male or female; tall or short; young or old.  We also describe ourselves according to our emotional state at any given moment; i.e., “I am angry.”   Perhaps most commonly we label ourselves according to the roles we play in life, as in, “I am a mother,” or “I am an accountant.”  In keeping with our social norms, when asked, “Who are you?” we most often respond by giving our name, occupation, or by sharing some aspect of our life experience to which the questioner can readily relate.   

The ‘self’ to which Tolle referred is comprised of all of those labels; however, none of them can define who we truly are.  Our true Self is changeless and eternal.  It can best be understood as ‘awareness,’ that which is aware of the body, emotional state, and the roles we play at any point in time.  Gangaji says, “You are awareness and awareness is consciousness.” The consciousness that was aware of the body, the mind and the emotions at age ten is the same consciousness that is aware of the body, the mind, and the emotions today.  While all of those external conditions change, consciousness remains constant. 

Tolle expounds on this truth in the forward to Gangaji’s book. He says, 
“Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ These words spoken by Jesus refer not to some conceptual truth, but to the truth of who you are beyond name and form. They refer not to something that you need to know about yourself, but a deeper, yet extraordinarily simple knowing, in which the knower and the known merge into one.I am not what happens, but the space in which it happens.  This knowing, this living truth, frees you from identification with form, from time, as well as from a false, mind-made sense of self.  What is that space in which everything happens? Consciousness prior to form.”

There is a common teaching in New Thought that warns against using the words, “I am” to proclaim anything that one does not desire, and encourages the use of “I am” solely to begin an affirmative statement in order to align with what is desired.   For example, the instruction is to not say “I am sick” for fear of claiming sickness and manifesting it, but instead to say, “I am healthy” in order to claim the truth and manifest it accordingly.  In truth, both sickness and health are conditions and are therefore subject to change.  Because all conditions are varying, none can define the true Self, not even those we consider favorable.  It matters not how one uses the words “I am” because it is simply a statement of a temporary state of mind.  Awareness cannot be identified with any thought, emotion, bodily experience, or concept, whether desired or not. 

As an experiment to experience the freedom inherent in this knowing, rather than using “I am” to define a present reality, thereby identifying with it, instead try using “I am aware…”  For example, “I am aware of a physical discomfort,” or “I am aware that the body is experiencing a fever,” or “I am aware that my body feels energized and clear.”  When we affirm “I am aware…” rather than “I am…” we remove the attention from the condition and focus on awareness itself, the only reality of being; that which is immutable and eternal. 

Perhaps in addition to contemplating the question “Who am I?” we might also benefit from contemplating the question, “What is my awareness in the moment?”  True freedom lies in discovering and living the answers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Follow Your Bliss

In his 2005 commencement address to Stanford University, Apple founder, Steve Jobs, told the audience, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And, whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.  He went on to encourage the graduates to follow their dreams, and to not waste their lives “living someone else’s life.”

Taken literally the thought that one could live someone else’s life is preposterous.  How can a person live a life that is not his own?  Of course, it is not possible; however, it is possible and even common for one to live a life that someone else has prescribed for her, perhaps her parents, culture, or even her religion.  All too often, we succumb to the pressures of others and do what is “expected” or what we believe will bring us success in the eyes of others.  We may not live the life of another, but we often live our lives for another.  Often we, as Thoreau said, live “lives of quiet desperation” in an attempt to make a living, be “respectable,” or feel safe and secure.  In doing so, we may meet some needs, but we may sacrifice our deepest need, which is to know ourselves as a magnificent expression of the One Life, to connect with the Essence of who we are and who we have come here to be, and to manifest that in the world.  In other words, our deepest need is to, as American mythologist, writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell, said, follow our bliss.

Most of us are most likely familiar with that quote, “Follow your bliss,” but like me, some may have a misconception of what it means to follow our bliss.  Until recently, I thought it meant to discover what brings joy and only do what is fun; ‘bliss’ meant ‘pleasure,’ ‘elation’ and ‘ebullience.’  After further exploration of Campbell’s lectures and writing, I found a greater depth of understanding.  The following quotes are taken from The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work.
“I think the best thing I can say is to follow your bliss. If your bliss is just your fun and your excitement, you’re on the wrong track. Know where your bliss is. And that involves coming down to a deep place in yourself.”“Your bliss can guide you to that transcendent mystery, because your bliss is the welling up of the energy of the transcendent wisdom within you.”

When we consider that Campbell defines ‘bliss’ as the energy of transcendent wisdom within us, we can clearly see that he was encouraging us to follow what could also be called the “Divine Urge” within us.  It is not about feeling blissful 24/7, but about being true to who we are.

Also, following our bliss does not mean that life will always be easy, that we will not face pain and struggle or that we can just sit back and let it happen.  On the contrary, following our bliss is, as Campbell says, the hero’s journey.  It is a journey that each one must undertake in order to be true to himself.

Campbell also says, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”  Some well-known hero journeys from literature include Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.  It is an age-old theme. Perhaps the best known hero’s journey for those from the Christian tradition is the life of Jesus Christ.

Each of these were called to embark upon the hero’s journey, and even though fear may have arisen, something within them urged them onward as they came face to face with dark and mysterious forces that attempted to dissuade them from their missions.  When we choose to follow our bliss we will probably be called upon to come face-to-face with our fears, and in doing so, we are given the opportunity to embrace our own strength and power at a deeper level.

Campbell encourages, “You follow [your bliss] and doors will open where there were no doors before, where you would not have thought there’d be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anybody else. There’s something about the integrity of a life.  And the world moves in and helps.  It really does.” 

When we say “Yes” to the Divine Urge within, we can rest assured that all the power of the Universe rushes in to help.  Again, it will not always be easy, but with faith we know that all is provided in the moment it is needed. 

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Divine Urge is the movement of that “transcendent wisdom” in the heart.  Intuition is the awareness of our innate wisdom.  As Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity said, “All wisdom is implanted in us by divine intelligence.”  He further said, “Wisdom can only be found in its purity at the heart center.”   We access wisdom when we consciously center our awareness in the heart, experience serenity, and listen for the still small voice.  From this centered consciousness, we receive guidance, and can then take the steps to follow our bliss with courage.  ‘Courage’ is derived from the French ‘coeur,’ which translates into English as ‘heart.’  Courage is the willingness to follow where the heart leads, trusting that the heart, the Divine Urge, our bliss, always guides us to the highest and best good for all.

As Steve Jobs said, “Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  As with all matters of the heart, you will know it when you hear it.” 

There are over seven billion people on Earth, and each and every one is a unique expression of the creative energy of the Universe.  I have often wondered why there are so many people on the planet.  That it takes each one expressing his or her magnificence in order to bring forth the kingdom of heaven is the only plausible reason I can think of.  Further, until every last one recognizes the Divine Urge and follows his or her ‘bliss’ we will not fully realize the kingdom.  That is how vital it is for us to follow our bliss.  Listen!  Follow your bliss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Living The Kingdom of God

One of my favorite quotes is from Marianne Williamson, speaker, teacher, and author of numerous books, including A Return to Love, which includes the statement, "We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone." Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to realize this truth and live from this truth, and in doing so, bring forth the kingdom of God into manifestation. In a nutshell, this is the essence of living a prosperous life, a life in which we express our innate glory in our work, relationships, physical well being, and our finances. If we are not currently living that experience, it is not that we do not possess the capacity; it is just that we are continuing to project a false image of ourselves which is not in alignment with our Truth, the Glory of God; thereby we are drawing to us demonstrations of our unbelief.  So, what do we do; how do we move from where we currently find ourselves to where we desire to be?

What are we to do when we look at our bank balances and see that there is not enough money to pay all the bills? What are we supposed to do when a relationship that we have committed to for life changes and the person we thought we were going to grow old with decides that is no longer the plan? What about when we go to the doctor and she tells us that we have a serious illness? What do we do when we find ourselves in a dead-end, mind-numbing job? How are we supposed to pull ourselves out of these conditions, transform our experiences, and live prosperous lives?

The master teacher and way-shower, Jesus, gives several good suggestions, not the least of which is found in Matthew 6:31 & 33 in which he says "Do not worry...but seek first the kingdom of God...and all these things shall be added to you."

First, do not worry. Worry keeps us in the cycle of manifesting what we do not want. Worry is the mental activity of resisting the condition which we want to change. Most have heard the adage, "what you resist persists." This is true because of the law of attraction which states that like attracts like. The law of attraction works by drawing us to people, places and circumstances that reflect the energy of our thoughts and feelings. It is important to remember that the law of attraction works on thoughts as well; one thought of lack attracts another similar thought and so on. When we worry, we are thinking thoughts of lack. When Jesus says, "do not worry," he is encouraging us to stop focusing on the condition, and instead focus on the Truth which is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God, to which Jesus refers, is as Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore says "not a place in the skies but an ideal state in creative mind, ready to be ushered into the minds of [humanity]." Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is at hand," and "the kingdom of God is within you." As Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, says "it is not somewhere to go, but something to be." The kingdom of God is represented by the Garden of Eden in the allegorical creation story found in the book of Genesis, a state of consciousness in which we know that we are created as the image and likeness of the One, and in which we know that all is provided in every moment.

Jesus provides further instruction as he continues to teach as stated in Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you."
The word 'seek' can mean "to search for" or "to go in quest of" something, but Jesus could not possibly have meant that we have to search for the kingdom of God. If it is something we need to go in search of, he would not have told us that it is "within us" or that it is "at hand." In other teachings, Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom is all around, yet men do not see it. For us to ask, "Where is the kingdom of God?" is like a fish asking, "Where is water?" It is the Substance and Supply in which we live and move and have being. "Seek" in this context of Jesus' teaching means to 'look' or to 'see.' When we close our physical eyes and cease to look at the apparent condition, we can focus our awareness on the eternal Truth of our being, that which is "within" us, as us. When we remove our awareness from the five senses, and stop looking with the physical eyes, we are able to more readily see with the eyes of Spirit. This is one reason we commonly close our eyes during prayer and meditation; it helps us to change the focus of our attention. When we choose to see with spirit eyes, we can only see what is true. The eyes of Spirit only see the kingdom of God. In order for us to live a prosperous life in all aspects of our experience, we can begin today to practice seeing the kingdom of God within, and then choose to see the kingdom of God without. Practice seeing only the kingdom of God everywhere, for in Truth, it is all that is real.

I have often wondered what Jesus meant when he said what has be interpreted as "knock and the door will be opened." What follows is what came to me as I meditated on that statement. The "door" is symbolic of any thought of lack or limitation which we may be holding in our minds, a thought that we believe and which may be the basis for the demonstration of the current condition. However, this thought which seems to be separating us from our Good, once acknowledged, may actually be a passageway between where we find ourselves now and the life that we desire to live. Once we become aware of the "door," we can "knock" on the door and it will be "opened." We knock on the door of our false belief through the practice of denials and affirmations. It is important to deny the power of any thought which seems to be separating us from the manifestation of a prosperous life. We deny the reality of any thought which does not have its foundation in the Truth which is any thought that tells us that we are anything less than the expression of the kingdom of God consciousness. Once we deny the thought, we then knock on the door, not with our hands, but through the power of our affirmative thought. An affirmative thought is one that is based on the Truth, the kingdom of God within. When we deny that the "door" is real and knock through the power of affirmative thought, the door not only opens; it dissipates and a new consciousness is revealed. We are then able to walk through the doorway into a whole new way of thinking and being, thus a whole new consciousness from which to demonstration a prosperous life.

Jesus also instructs us to "ask," but Jesus does not teach that we are to "ask" as in, "please give me," but instead to "call forth" or to "claim." Jesus did not ask God to heal the sick, or raise the dead. No, Jesus gave thanks for what he knew was already the Truth and then called forth the demonstration of it. As Jesus said, "ask believing that you have already received, and it will be given." (Mark 11:24) We are to call forth through the power of our thoughts, feelings and words whatever we desire in order that we may demonstration a prosperous life.

We manifest the kingdom of God, the glory of God within each of us, thus, we live prosperous lives when we stop worrying about what we do not want, and instead focus on what we do want; choose to see the kingdom of God everywhere present, within and all around us; deny the power of limiting thoughts and affirm the Truth; and call forth what we desire through the power of our thoughts, feelings, words and gratitude.