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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Spiritual Practice of Wholehearted Living

I am often amazed, upon revisiting a beloved book, when I recognize how much the author has evolved in his or her understanding of the subject matter during the time the book was on my shelf. It often seems as though he or she has edited the book since my last reading. Of course, I realize that neither is true. I know that I am the one who has changed. I am reading and understanding from a different perspective. I am often delighted when I reread a book and discover new meaning and insight that I might have missed the first time.

Several days ago, during a time of meditation and contemplation, I became consciously aware of an issue I was working through. This awareness brought to mind a book I read in the spring of 2013 that greatly impacted my life. It is the book by the now popular Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, a writer and research professor at University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, entitled The Gifts of Imperfection, and the tag line is, “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are.”

Dr. Brown has done extensive research on shame and its negative impact on the ways we relate in the world. She defines ‘shame’ as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Because we live life with the belief that we are unworthy, we do our best to protect ourselves in order to prevent others from discovering just how flawed and unlovable we are. We do this by hiding and/or attempting to prove our worthiness. Unfortunately, hiding who we are, and striving to be who we are not, keeps us from being vulnerable.  Dr. Brown says that vulnerability is the only way for us to get what we truly desire in life – love and belonging.

As I re-read this, I could hardly resist the urge to toss the book across the room. It was not new information; after all I had read the book before, but it was not what I wanted to hear in that moment. I said silently, “Being vulnerable is hard work. Do I really have to be vulnerable in order to live life authentically and wholeheartedly?” Of course, I knew the answer. Yes!

While interviewing thousands for her research on shame, Dr. Brown encountered some people who were what she has termed “shame resilient” meaning that although they have shame, as all of us do, they are nonetheless able to live wholeheartedly and authentically. As she was compiling her research she discovered that the shame resilient people are not innately different from the rest of us. They do, however, make conscious choices to practice behaviors that encourage them to know that they are not flawed and unlovable. They allow themselves to be vulnerable and they have tools in place to help them when they experience the joy of victory or the pain of failure.

Dang it!  Learning to live authentically and wholeheartedly is not just a matter of being spiritual enough, or reading the right books, or meditating every day, or praying without ceasing. It is not even about going to the right workshop or becoming a Unity minster: It is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE.

I have to admit I was hoping for the easy answer. I was hoping that at some point I would fully realize my spiritual mastery and simply begin to live my truth, assuming that I would “automagically” know what to do and how to live fully in the world, without being of the world. I guess I should have known it would require me to, as the fifth Unity principle says, “Live the truth I know.” And, living the truth I know requires me to make conscious choices about how I relate to others and to myself, and to act on those choices from true knowing.

While it may not be the easy answer I was hoping for, Dr. Brown’s book has, once again, opened my eyes in a way that has the potential to be life-changing. And, while I may not have remembered what I had been asking for at the time, I have certainly been provided an answer to some deeply felt questions. I am reminded of the adage, “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” I prefer, “Be conscious what you ask for; you most certainly will get it.”

I encourage anyone who has ever thought that they would like to live a more authentic and wholehearted life to read this book and adopt the spiritual practices outlined. I will be including these concepts as the basis for my talks over the next few weeks. I hope you will join us as we discover our innate worthiness, claim it, and live the truth we know.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Way, The Truth, The Life

 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” – John 14: 1-7

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; No one comes unto the Father except by me” is a well-known and often repeated quote from the master teacher, Jesus. It is often used as a proof text in traditional Christianity to substantiate the teaching that salvation can only come through belief in Jesus. In Unity, we believe that Jesus was not speaking of himself as the way, the truth and the life; rather he was speaking of the “I Am” or the Christ which is the essence of each of us.

Jesus is saying that we cannot experience the revelation that the Father - the One Source of All - is in us and we in It, except by realization of the truth that we are the way, the truth and the life.

The Way is the method or the “how.”  It is a path that leads only to here and now. It is the journey without distance. It can be said that “The Way” is its own destination; It is the “How” within itself. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do. It is knowing that nowhere is “Now-Here.”  It is the way of itself, the way within itself.

We experience being “the way” by knowing that we are already now-here. We are already it; here and now. We can relax in the knowing that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do in order to know the “Father”.

The Truth is the self-knowingness of the Spirit. It is the only reality. It is the essence of all that is. It is that which can be known but cannot be told. It is not intelligence for intelligence is of the mind. Truth is beyond the mind. We do our best to express Truth, but words cannot contain it. It cannot be expressed: it can only be experienced. The Truth is within us and we are within the Truth.

We experience it by becoming a conscious observer of it. We can only experience it when we cease attempting to know the truth, and choose to realize that we already are the knowing that we seek. We simply must allow it to be as it is.

The Life is the self-livingness of the ALL. It is not born; It does not die. It is the ever-expanding, ever-giving, ever-expressing Self. The Life is the evolutionary impulse of Creation.  It is creative intelligence and it is the organizing principle of All that is.

We experience The Way, The Truth, The Life by becoming aware of the awakened presence that we already are. No one can teach it. No one can explain it. No one can guide us on the path to becoming what we already are. Life is; I Am.

We will know the Father when we know the way, the truth and the life and realize that we are that I AM.

Then, we will know what Jesus meant when he said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you that where I Am there you may be also.”

As long as Jesus appeared to the disciples in form, they continued to look to him to show them the way, teach them the truth and be their connection to life. He knew he had to leave in order that they might claim their own truth. He knew that they had to know for themselves that they were in the Father and the Father in them. The same is true for us. Jesus is not the way, the truth and the life; each of us is. When we claim that as our truth, we will be where Jesus is. We will know the Christ, and we will know ourselves as the Christ.

I invite you this week to begin the day with the affirmation, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Set yourself free.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back To Basics

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I have a propensity to make things more complicated than they really are. One might think that I would have been fully aware of that before now, but apparently not. I have spent years reading and studying New Thought philosophy, most recently completing a program of study to obtain my Unity licensed teacher credential. However, it is only recently that I have begun to “connect the dots” and reduce all of that teaching and learning down to two basic concepts upon which the remainder of the teachings rest.

Those two concepts are: “There is One Power and One Presence,” the first of Unity’s Five Basic Principles and “Human beings experience life as an effect of consciousness,” the third basic principle restated in my own words. Everything else Unity teaches is
  • an effort to explain or define the first concept;
  • demonstrate how a consciousness which is fully aware of this concept experiences a life that is empowered, joyful and free;
  • and encourage, inspire or instruct ways to transform one’s consciousness.

It truly is quite simple, and when I choose to view Unity philosophy from that perspective I see that I have been making it much more complicated than it really is. Also, I have a new understanding from which to learn and teach.

The concept of “One Power and One Presence” is an essential Truth principle: It is a core belief and a foundational axiom of Unity and the New Thought movement as a whole. In our effort to understand, we call the “One” by many names such as God, Divine Mind, Allness, Quantum Field, Pure Potentiality, as well as others. We also assign it attributes such as Wholeness, Abundance, Love, and the like. Of course, to describe the ineffable is, by definition, impossible. The best understanding I have of the “One” is that that it is the ground of being in which and from which all creation has life. It helps me to conceive of the “One” as that which is the potential for the ideal expression of perfection, and that which I may express and experience as order, harmony, beauty, love, life, and unity, and many others. Further, when my consciousness is filled with the awareness of the “One,” then the foregoing is all that I do experience in and as my life. And, since there is only One, each of us must be individuations of that One; therefore, Unity’s second basic principle is a given.

While I propose that it is quite simple, I acknowledge that the third principle is possibly the most confusing, confounding, misunderstood and misinterpreted of all the teachings. It is fraught with possibilities for us to beat ourselves down (it is impossible to beat ourselves up) with blame and criticism when we experience some event in our lives, such an illness or accident, that we judge as “bad” and then attempt to discover the thought we were holding that “created” it. We do ourselves and each other a grave disservice when we teach that we are individually responsible for each and every event that occurs in our lives. When we understand that, our consciousness is comprised not only of the conscious phase of mind, which is our current thoughts, beliefs and sensory awareness, but also includes the subconscious, which is the storehouse of impressions, beliefs and images from our past, as well as collective consciousness, which is the conscious and subconscious of all humanity. It seems clear that we are not individually responsible for the circumstances of our lives, yet the state of our individual consciousness impacts our circumstances and because our individual consciousness contributes to collective consciousness, we impact the circumstances of all creation. It is also important to recognize that while our individual consciousness does not solely create the events and circumstances of our lives, it does determine our experience and interpretation of those events and circumstances.  For example, if one experiences an illness or other physical body manifestation it does not mean that he or she created the condition solely through the projection of individual consciousness. However, the way in which he or she experiences the condition is solely the result of individual consciousness and can have a direct impact on future conditions.

When we allow awareness of the “One” which Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, termed “Superconsciousness” to imbue our consciousness at every level, we will experience only the perfection of life. This does not mean that we will not have events in our lives that appear as illness or accidents. It also does not mean that we will not face circumstances that allow us the opportunity to question our belief in the ever-present expression of eternal life, beauty, order, or wholeness. It does, however, mean that from a consciousness filled with the awareness of the “One” we will see from the perspective of the “One” and we will be able to observe perfection, meaning without defect or flaw and lacking nothing, manifested in and through all.

This transformation of consciousness is facilitated by our conscious understanding of truth principles which we teach, and through our practice of prayer, meditation and contemplation and various other spiritual practices that we teach and promote, thus affirming Unity’s fourth and fifth basic principles.

It really is very simple. There is only One: Each of us is that One, and when we know that Truth, we are free. Everything we teach is based on this Truth. And, everything we teach is intended to support a transformation of consciousness so that we may experience life from this awareness. Whew!  And to think I thought it was complicated.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Apocalypse Now!

I realize that many of my recent blog posts begin with the phrase, “I have recently begun reading…” It is true that I often read several books simultaneously. This is sometimes difficult for me to believe, especially since I did not enjoy reading when I was much younger. In fact, in high school, English literature was the only class in which I got less than an ‘A’ simply because I did not like to read. That was before I realized there is so much I want to learn.  I find that now I can’t limit myself to one book at a time.

So, I recently began reading a book by Unity minister, Rev. Ed Townley, entitled Kingdom Come.  The book’s subtitle is “Understanding the Book of Revelation.”  He has tackled a topic that many would rather avoid due to the proliferation of misinformation, confusion and even fear associated with it.  Kudos Rev. Townley.

Townley says that he was inspired to write the book, in part, as a response to the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jennings that have enjoyed wide-spread popularity over the past nearly twenty years.  The books, which I understand have now been made into movies, are based on a conservative Christian interpretation of the Book of Revelation. According to their version, Revelation predicts the end times when those who are “good Christians” will be taken up to heaven, leaving the rest behind to suffer the wrath of a vengeful God as punishment for sins.

I have not read any of the Left Behind series, but I am familiar with the premise of this Christian eschatology, referred to by some as the “rapture.”  I have seen artists’ depictions of planes plummeting to the earth because the pilot was taken, people floating up into the sky leaving cars on the freeway, and the ensuing death and destruction experienced by those who are left behind.  The plot of a current HBO series, “The Leftovers,” seems to hint at this theme as well.
Some believe that the Book of Revelation is a prophecy about what will happen in the last days before Jesus returns to establish a reign of peace on earth, a foretelling of “the end of days.”  Sadly, some are now pointing to the tragic situations now occurring in the Middle East as signs of the imminence of the fulfillment of this prophecy, thus adding to the fear of what is already, for many, a terrifying state of affairs.

Rev. Townley approaches the Book of Revelation from an entirely different and refreshingly positive perspective. Rather than an end of the world horror story, he presents the text as a guide to personal, practical spiritual growth. He explores each of the twenty-two chapters as steps to our own process of awakening to and embodying our Christ nature.

He explains that contrary to what many in traditional Christianity believe, which is that the Book of Revelation portrays the cataclysmic final destruction of the world, often referred to as ‘the apocalypse’ that the word ‘apocalypse’ in the original Greek actually means “revelation” or “lifting of the veil.”  The Book of Revelation, when interpreted from this perspective and applied to our spiritual growth, can assist us in experiencing our own apocalypse.  As St. Paul said, 
For now we see as through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12) 
When the veil of separation is lifted, we will no longer see “through the glass darkly;” rather, we will see ourselves as the reflection of the Christ that we are.
As seen through Rev. Townley’s perspective, the Book of Revelation is not about “the end of days,” but rather “the end of daze.”  Applied as practical spiritual tools, the lessons in this Scripture can help us to awaken from the daze we have been living in, and we can begin to live in the light of clarity and enlightenment. We can each have our own apocalypse now.

I highly recommend this book.  In fact, I am considering using it as the basis for a class and a series of talks. I would love to hear from you.  Are you interested in understanding the Book of Revelation?