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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Journey of Awakening

This past Sunday, I began my Lenten lesson series entitled “Awaken with Jesus” based on the book, Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti. He explores in the book, from a Buddhist perspective, Jesus of the Gospels as a metaphor for each of us and his life as a process of awakening which can be a model for our own journey. When I speak of “awakening” I am referring to moving beyond our habitual state of consciousness, which is most often identification with the body or life situations, and embracing and living from a higher level of conscious connection with the transcendent nature of being, which in Unity we call ‘Christ.’ I will continue with that series of lessons and related blog posts throughout Lent.

It is my intention to be clear that awakening is our path to freedom from the limited concept of self that we have imposed on ourselves or taken on from our families, peers, schools, and yes, our churches. We are taught from birth to believe things about ourselves that are not in alignment with our true nature. We are conditioned by the world around us, and we primarily live our lives from this conditioned state of consciousness. Living from identification with the conditioned mind colors our experience of ourselves, others and, most importantly the God of our understanding. Identification with the conditioned mind keeps us asleep and in bondage to its limitations. As we awaken to the Christ of our being, we free ourselves to live empowered and fulfilling lives. The master teacher Jesus taught, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I emphasize that he said we must know the Truth in order to be free. To know the Truth is to awaken to it
In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, said,

“Jesus Christ was the [prototype] man, which includes all the mental phases through which man passes in demonstrating life's problems. So we find Jesus Christ passing through all the trials, temptations, and mental variations of each of us…The experiences of each individual are in miniature the experiences of all.

We may "put on the new man," that is, bring forth Jesus Christ in ourselves. First we must put away the "old man" of error and limitation through denial of his reality. The second step is to accept the truth of our being, in faith; then through understanding to begin diligently to live Truth in thought, word, and deed. The Christ is the man that God created, the perfect-idea man, and is the real self of all men; Jesus Christ is this Christ-self brought forth into perfect expression and manifestation
Jesus, the man of Nazareth, demonstrated that this attainment is possible to man... We are exhorted to "have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," which implies that all may demonstrate as He did…”

While I unequivocally believe that it is possible for each of us to attain the level of awakening and embodiment that Jesus did, it is vitally important to me, as we move through this series, that we do not get lost in the weeds of self-judgment, comparing ourselves to the ideal that we believe Jesus exampled. Yes, it is essential for us to hold the vision of our potential to know ourselves as the expression of Christ in the world and to free ourselves from identification with the conditioned mind. And, it is also crucial that we accept and love ourselves right where we are on the path so that we do not impede our progress. It is important for us not to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It is equally important for us not to denigrate ourselves when we find that we fall short of living our highest intention to embody and live from Christ consciousness. It is a journey of self-mastery that Jesus exampled for us. I offer the following as encouragement along the way
For most of us, awakening from the conditioned mind is not a one-time experience that happens suddenly and is permanent. It is usually a process that happens in phases. Although there are some who have reportedly experienced instantaneous awakening and who appear to have been able to maintain it for extended periods of time, it is not the norm. Whether it is not the norm because collective consciousness maintains the belief that it has to be a process, I cannot emphatically state; however, the evidence is that, for most people, it progresses over time. The same is true for Jesus. As Mr. Fillmore stated, he passed through all the stages while on his earthly journey that we do on our respective paths.

Further, because it is tempting for us to fall into the trap of assessing where we are and thinking that we should be at a particular stage in our process at any given time, it is important to know that we are not engaged in a linear process. As we explore the life of Jesus as the metaphor, it would seem that embodying the Christ is a process that we can follow step-by-step. We may experience the various stages of awakening as identified by Adyashanti in the life of Jesus, such as “the calling,” “baptism,” “trials and tribulations,” “crucifixion” and the like; however, it is most often not as clearly defined and linear as depicted in the story. Instead, it is often a circuitous spiraling path. We may have a “baptismal” experience and think we are on the road to “trials and tribulations,” only to find ourselves experiencing “crucifixion” in the next moment, or “the calling” the following day. While it sometimes seems that we experience the same things over and over, in actuality we are having familiar experiences from a higher state of consciousness.

When we are intentionally engaged in our journey, we are continually spiraling toward realization of our Christ nature, even though at times it may not seem so. It is vital to acknowledge and honor that for ourselves. It is essential that we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are and give ourselves compassion for what we are experiencing in the moment.

Finally, it is not a process of abdication, but integration. We are not called to renounce our humanity or to abandon our lives, but to integrate our new-found awareness of Truth and live it. It is not about leaving the world behind, but about shining the light of Truth on our conditioned mind, realizing that we cannot be defined by our past conditioning, and choosing to bring that consciousness to bear in our daily lives. We are here to bring the Kingdom of Heaven into conscious manifestation. We do that by fully engaging in our humanity while knowing that our True Nature transcends time and space. We are to be fully in the world, while maintaining consciousness awareness that we are not of the world.

I invite you to join me during Lent for this journey of awakening. We are all on the path of awakening together. Let us join in love and compassion for each other and ourselves as we invite Jesus, our master teacher, to lead the way.

Join us on Sundays at 10:00 for our service, and on Wednesdays 7:00 – 8:30 for the book study.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent: Let Go, Let God

Last Sunday after service, I attended the Youth and Family Ministry teachers’ meeting. These meetings, held periodically, are led with loving support by our YFM Director, Jackie Bullen. The primary purpose of this meeting was to introduce the teachers to the curriculum they will be using during Lent. Though other topics were discussed, the Lenten season, which began on Wednesday, was the principal focus. As she opened the meeting, Jackie shared an exercise and a reading that helped us connect with the meaning of Lent and how we observe it in the Unity movement.

In traditional Christianity, Lent is observed as a time for sacrifice, penitence, repentance and self-denial. It is a common practice in Catholicism as well as many Protestant traditions for adherents to abstain from eating meat, other foods, or to give up certain behaviors as means of demonstrating self-sacrifice. They purportedly encourage this practice in order to honor the pain, suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. In Unity, however, we teach that Lent is, as cofounder Charles Fillmore stated, “A season of spiritual growth, a time for progressive unfoldment.¹” We do not focus on the aspects of sacrifice; rather, we observe Lent as a time for releasing and letting go of the thoughts and the resulting behaviors that limit the unfoldment of our true nature – Christ.

After sharing about Lent, Jackie invited each of us in the circle to share what we are choosing to let go of. As I listened to others express, I was struck by the depth of inner connection and the authenticity of the sharing. It was, for me, further confirmation of the commitment, love and support that this group of dedicated volunteers enjoy together.

I was the last to speak, partly because I wanted to be present for and listen to others and partly because I did not have clarity for myself. I gained clarity only after hearing one of the teachers share. I then had an “aha.” I recognized that what I want to let go of is my resistance to letting go.

On Monday morning during my meditation time, it came to me as knowing that now is a time of purification which will require letting go. Immediately, my mind went to, “What do I have to let go of?” “What if I don’t want to let go?” “Is letting go going to be painful?” Fear crept in. I immediately felt my resistance.

Fortunately, I was willing to remain seated on my meditation cushion, breathe deeply, reclaim center, and remain open to the messages that followed. The first was that we are always free to choose. Further, that the only choice we are asked to make is whether or not we are willing and ready now to awaken to our Christ nature. When we answer ‘YES’ we open to allow the Universe to support us in our decision.

The messages continued with the knowing that we do not need to work at letting go. We only need invite the awareness of our Christ nature to awaken in our hearts and minds through the practice of prayer, meditation and contemplation. We need only, as the master teacher Jesus instructed, “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), and to know that the “Kingdom of God is within” (Luke 17:21). As Mr. Fillmore also stated, “When we can blend and merge our mind with God-Mind the way is open for the Lord [the Spiritual activity of the I Am, the Christ²] ² to glorify us and to lift us into a higher, purer, more spiritual state.¹” We then attract into our life all that reflects and supports our expanded awareness. All that is not in harmony with our “higher, purer, more spiritual state” will fall away because we will no longer be attracting it to us. We do not need to know what we must release. It will be revealed to us as we are ready to know it. Further, letting go will only be painful if we attempt to hold on to that which is no longer in resonance with us.

Lent, for us, is not a time of self-sacrifice. It is a season of awakening to a greater awareness of the true Self, the Christ in expression. It is also a time of surrender, to truly “Let go, and Let God.” We are asked to let go of our resistance and allow the life of Christ, the full potential of our true nature, to live in and as us.

Beginning February 22, and continuing through Easter, my Sunday morning lessons will be based on the book, Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti, frequently referred to as Adya. From a Zen Buddhist perspective, he explores the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels as a path to awakening. Awakening is a journey of letting go of the limited perspective of self that we have learned and accepted while on the way to embodying our Divine Nature. With Adya’s help, we will discover how many of the significant events in Jesus’ life, when viewed metaphorically and metaphysically, represent the stages that we may experience, albeit hopefully less dramatically, on the path to awakening.

I hope you will join us for this journey. I will also facilitate a group study of the book on Wednesday evenings 7:00 to 8:30 beginning February 25. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join me in letting go.

Let us, together, embrace this season of Lent as our time of awakening to the Christ of our being!

¹ Keep a True Lent by Charles Fillmore

² The Revealing Word by Charles Fillmore

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I Agape

Love is all around. Saturday is Valentine’s Day, a day designated to celebrate romantic love. We often hear it said that God is love. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind” and the second is like it; “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 27: 37-39). Love is one of the Twelve Powers of Man as discerned by Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore. Love is also one of the five core values of Unity Church of Denver.

With all the talk of and references to love in our culture, the Bible, Unity teaching, and our church, one might think that we all understand what it means and how to put it into practice. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I admit that I am often still confused when it comes to love. What do we mean when we use the word ‘love?’ We accept that God is love and we are created in the image and likeness of God, so it follows that we, too, are love. Since we acknowledge that we are love, a common understanding of what it means would prove beneficial in our intention to be love in the world. What follows are some of my thoughts as I have meditated on and explored ‘love’ over the past few days.

In our daily conversations, we most often use the word ‘love’ in relationship to an “other,” whether a person, an animal, an object, or a life condition. Grammatically speaking, we generally use ‘love’ as either a noun or a transitive verb. For those of us who have not been in school for a while, a reminder in grammar may be helpful. A verb is an “action word” and a transitive verb is one that requires a direct object. When we say, “I love you,” we are using ‘love’ as a transitive verb, an action word, and ‘you’ as the object.  In the same phrase ‘love’ may also be considered a noun as we may actually be saying “I feel love for you.” In that case, ‘love’ is an emotion.  The same is true when we use phrases, such as “I love my job;” “I love my pet;” or “I love ice cream.”

Such phrases express an aspect of love that we value in our lives; they are ways that we experience love reflected to us from others. Yet, while they express warm and tender sentiments, these statements can also suggest what A Course in Miracles calls “special relationships” that can be exclusionary. The implication is that someone or something is loved, while others are not. This use of ‘love’ is habitual in our human experience. We typically evaluate others based upon our established criteria to determine whether they are worthy of our love, and we decide to extend our affection and compassion to them, or not, based on our assessment.

I have to believe that this is not the love that Jesus was referring to when he instructed us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that he was, instead, referring to Agape, a Greek word which denotes the love of God for humanity, a love that is all-pervading, all-inclusive and all-providing.  Agape is love without condition, without restriction and without limitation. I offer that Agape, love in its purest form, is neither a noun, nor a transitive verb, but instead is an intransitive verb: It is an action that requires no object. In fact, it is God in action.

Agape is God – Creative Life Force Energy – in its purest vibration. It is the Principle of Love and is not personal. It is.  And, it is without respect to person, place or thing. We make it personal as we demonstrate it. We give it meaning and purpose. It is comparable to the principle of mathematics: It is only principle until we apply it
Agape, while it requires no object, is energy in expression and requires a channel through which to flow into the manifest realm. We, you and I, are the channels through which it is meant to flow. We open ourselves to the flow through our conscious intention to do so. We must be willing to proclaim as composer Dan Schutte so beautifully wrote in his song, “Here I Am Lord”,

“Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord. I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, where you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”

We must open to the “Lord” of our being, “the activity of the Spiritual I AM”¹, and allow love to call us forth to our purest expression. We must allow our hearts to be the chalice of love and our thoughts, words and actions to be the means we employ to pour love into the energy matrix from which the world we perceive is made manifest. We must engage in the activity of the Spiritual I AM and perceive all as One.

As we answer the call and open to allow, we bask in the glow as our consciousness is flooded with the Light of Agape. Our chakras awaken in all dimensions as portals through which it flows into and through us. In this way, we begin to embody the Truth of what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the Light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). It no longer remains simply an affirmation of our essential nature, but in our acceptance of it, becomes our conscious expression.

When we embody Agape, we see all creation as perfect and whole, the complete demonstration of the Life Energy it signifies. We hold all, including ourselves, in complete acceptance without evaluation or judgment.  We embrace all in compassion, knowing that any suffering is our suffering. We no longer have a desire to find fault or place blame, instead we let go of our need to be “right.” We know that there is only One, and we are that One. We see the “other” as ourselves, and we love accordingly.

In the consciousness of Agape, the phrase, “I love you” is grammatically incorrect because ‘love’ is neither a noun nor is it a transitive verb. We might instead say simply, “I love.” Some Christians, in an attempt to capture the spirit of Agape, use the phrase, “I agape you²,” but again, that usage makes Agape either an emotion or an action directed toward another.
I realize that it may sound odd, but I invite us to affirm, “I Agape”: I love with no limits, no boundaries, no labels, and no exclusions.

Join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service as we explore how we can together embody “I Agape.”

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mind Your Own Business

I have been studying Discover the Power Within You by Unity minister, Eric Butterworth, in preparation for the class that Phyllis Hoover and I are currently facilitating.  While reading from this book, the title for my lesson this coming Sunday came to me in a flash – “Mind Your Own Business.”

With the aid of Eric Butterworth’s profound metaphysical exploration of the verses from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 7: 1-6, I came to the conclusion that Jesus was, in a kind and compassionate manner, telling us to “mind our own business.” I invite you to consider that suggestion as you read below.

 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”
Jesus is instructing us to cease judging others, stop paying attention to what others are doing, or not doing, and discontinue trying to convince others to accept our spiritual understanding and insight.
Unity’s third basic principle states that we experience life as the effect of our consciousness. Judgment of another first occurs in our consciousness, thus we suffer the effects of it. The one upon whom judgment is levied is affected by it only if:  1) they are aware of the judgment, and 2) they choose to accept it, and then 3) finally they incorporate it into their consciousness.
Jesus is telling us to pay attention to what is happening in our consciousness. We are to focus on what we are projecting and experiencing in the world. In other words, we are to mind our own business. If we notice we are in judgment, it is our opportunity to become aware of our beliefs, release those that are not in alignment with our Truth, affirm what is True, and transform our own consciousness. In doing so, we change not only our perspective of others and ourselves, but also how we experience life in general.
As Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NRSV). The “will of God” according to Butterworth is “The ceaseless longing of the Spirit in you to completely fulfill in the outer the potential within you.” With the aid of Butterworth’s definition, we see that what Paul is saying is that the demonstration in the outer is a reflection of our consciousness which must be transformed in order that we may manifest the highest and best good for ourselves and humanity. We renew our minds by getting still and consciously connecting with our Truth; as the psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the stillness, we know our unity in the God. We know the Truth, and the Truth sets us free (John 8:32). Our consciousness is transformed and we are in conscious communion with the will of God, the “ceaseless longing of Spirit.” We are then free to fulfill in the outer all that we know.  We demonstrate the potential within us by first discovering, claiming and embodying it in consciousness, and then thinking, speaking and acting in alignment with it.
Likewise, others’ actions are the outer demonstrations of their consciousness. We cannot control another’s consciousness, only our own. It is often easy for us to observe the lives or our family and friends and diagnose and prescribe solutions to their problems. And, while often well intentioned, our solutions are usually tinged with judgment and evaluation of what they are doing “wrong.” Butterworth says that our job is not to “set things right, but to see them rightly” and we can only do that by removing the “log in our own eye.” In other words, we are to remove from our consciousness the thoughts that are not in alignment with the “Power Within” – theirs or ours.  These thoughts block our vision of the Truth and prevent us from seeing clearly the Divine Potential expressing and fulfilling in and through the lives of all.
In Matthew 7:6 quoted above, Jesus was not encouraging us to use derogatory terminology to refer to those who don’t agree with us when he said “do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine.” Instead, he was using the metaphors to demonstrate clearly the potential for rejection and even humiliation when we attempt to convince others to adopt our spiritual understanding and perspective. Everyone has their own spiritual path and those who are open will receive their own revelation of Truth. It is not ours to make that determination for anyone other than ourselves.
Our business is our consciousness.  In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount we are focusing on, the master teacher Jesus is reminding us that we perceive others and ourselves according to our consciousness; we create our experience of the world as a reflection of our consciousness; and we experience revelation of Truth through our consciousness. As we focus on the content of our consciousness and less on the action, inaction and beliefs of others, we will discover that the power is within us and that focusing on others blocks our awareness of it and frustrates the flow. The ultimate message from Jesus, Butterworth and me this Sunday is “Mind Your Own Business.”

Join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service to learn how to apply the spiritual principles and “Mind Your Own Business.”