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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Now is the Time; We are the Ones

I am continuing with my Lenten series, “Awaken with Jesus” based on the book, Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti. Adya, as he is often called, explores the life of Jesus as a metaphor for our own journey of awakening. He invites us to, rather than read the story as a spectator, get into the story, to allow the story to come alive in us. He suggests that in doing so Jesus will become more alive to us and in us, thus the title “Resurrecting Jesus.” As we read the story as our story, it is imperative for us to see Jesus, not as one separate from us, or simply as one who lived centuries ago, but as a representation of each of us. When we are willing to see ourselves living the life of Jesus as portrayed in the story and understand the events from a metaphysical perspective, we can see how we are each responsible to and for our own awakening.

The account of Jesus’ baptism by the Holy Spirit is depicted and traditionally interpreted as an anointing from an external source and the proclamation, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” as the voice of God coming from heaven above. However, when interpreted metaphorically and metaphysically, it represents each of us opening our hearts to the awareness of the “Whole Spirit” of God as our very essence, and our minds to the knowing that we are each expressions of God embraced in perfect love. It is not something that happens to us, but something that happens through us as we become willing to accept it.

Further, Jesus’ time in the wilderness is traditionally interpreted as his confrontation with and eventual victory over an external force for evil, Satan. In Unity we teach that there is no force for evil, but that what we call “evil” is the out picturing of our belief in separation from God. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said that “Satan” is “a state of mind formed by man's personal ideas of his power and completeness and sufficiency apart from God¹.” When we reflect on Jesus time in the wilderness from a metaphysical perspective, we understand that it represents our willingness to engage with and integrate those personal ideas that would separate us from our Truth. It is an illustration, once again, of a process that happens through us, one that we consciously undertake in order to embrace our wholeness.

Jesus’ ministry illustrates the ways our lives are a reflection of how we choose to view and interact with the world. We can allow ourselves to be controlled by the subconscious and unconscious myths, messages and beliefs, and ride the waves of turmoil that often ensue. Or, we can claim our dominion over them as Jesus demonstrated and say, “Peace, be still.” We can choose to own our power, stand in our Truth and not be buffeted by the storms of the past. 

We can allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear, pain, resentment or anger, most often stemming from attachments to our judgments of the past, either of ourselves or another. Or, we can choose to claim forgiveness for ourselves and others as Jesus demonstrated. When he spoke the words, “Your sins are forgiven, take up your bed and walk” to the paralyzed man, he was not providing a dispensation. He was stating a truth. What we call ‘sin’ is a misperception born from a belief in separation. No other labels need be attributed to it. Forgiveness is not something we do for another, nor something that happens to us. Forgiveness is something that happens through us. It requires a conscious choice to see clearly the truth of ourselves and all others. When we awaken to our divine nature, when we know ourselves as the Christ, we know it for all.

When Jesus told the woman who touched the hem of his robe and was healed of twelve years of hemorrhaging, “Your faith has made you whole” he was making a statement of truth. He was not the source of her healing. She was healed because of her willingness to consciously exercise the power of faith. She was willing to open herself to see beyond the limitations of the physical eyes. She was able to perceive that which exists beyond the capacity of our physical senses to perceive. She opened her heart and mind to the essence of life itself and in doing so, she experienced a return to the natural flow of life through her being. It was not because she touched his robe that she was healed. Faith is not something we acquire; it is something we choose to apply from within. Results are not something awarded by an outside source based on our actions.  As we live from faith, through faith, results are a manifestation of connection with our spiritual Truth.

Embodying the spirit of Jesus not only calls us to a life of conscious choice and awareness, but also to a life of compassion, conviction and courage. In the story, Jesus shows compassion for those who are suffering. He healed the sick, made the lame to walk, restored sight to the blind, and cast out demons. He did it all without joining in the suffering. He stood in his truth as the Christ and responded from that consciousness. We, too, are called to meet the needs of the world with compassion from the consciousness of truth. We are not called to join the suffering, but to stand with those who are suffering and do all we can to help meet their needs and assist them in claiming the truth for themselves. We need not look far to see that there are many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering and in need.  In her song, All the Good, singer-songwriter Jana Stanfield says it well, “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.” Jesus did not heal all the suffering in the world, but he responded to the need he witnessed.

Jesus also exampled a life of conviction and courage. He spoke out against the abuses of those in power in the church, as well as in the government. He stood up against the religious and societal elite who profited at the expense of the common people. He challenged the corruption of the temple priests and scribes.  He dared to walk among and even touch the lepers, those whom others shunned. He spoke to the woman at the well, which was considered unacceptable at the time. Although they were often considered to be less-than fully human in his culture, Jesus called the children to him and blessed them.  He welcomed the Gentiles and Samaritans who were unacceptable to the Jews. He stood for Truth even when he knew his life was in danger for doing it.

Embodying the spirit of Jesus, challenges us to courageously stand in our power and speak truth to those in power. There are many societal, financial and governmental structures in the world today that support the abuse of power and the exploitation of many people. We must be willing to stand up for truth, justice and equality for all.

We are not all called to surrender our physical lives for the sake of our conviction as depicted in the Jesus story. As we follow the example of our way shower, Jesus, we are asked to claim our divine essence, engage in practices that solidify our realization of it, and to do our utmost best to live in integrity with it. Each of us is responsible for and to our own awakening.

I invite us to ask ourselves, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Now is the time; We are the ones.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Engaged Spirituality

My Lenten Sunday lesson series, “Awaken with Jesus” is based on the book, Resurrecting Jesus - Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti. From a Buddhist perspective, Adya, as he is often called, explores the life of Jesus as a metaphor for awakening. He describes ‘awakening’ as "a shift from seeing yourself as a limited, isolated, separate person to realizing you are...that which all beings essentially are."  With the aid of Adya's amazing insights, I have talked about some of the significant events in Jesus' life and how when viewed metaphorically and metaphysically, they can teach us about our own path of awakening to our divine nature, which in Unity we call 'Christ.' Over the past few weeks, we have explored his birth, baptism and his time in the wilderness with the “wild beasts” and Satan.

After confronting "Satan," who represents the shadow, the aspects of self that we would rather deny, and responding to each of the “temptations” from awakened consciousness, Jesus is attended by the angels. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore tells us that an ‘angel’ represents “a projection into consciousness of a spiritual idea¹.” This definition helps us understand that the attending of angels illustrates Jesus’ mind being filled with the divine ideas: truths about himself and all creation.

He then comes out of the wilderness to begin his ministry and is immediately given opportunities to encounter suffering, disease, pain, hunger, enslavement and all that comprises the so-called human condition. And, in each instance, he must choose how he will respond. With such accountings, as the story unfolds, we discover that not only is Jesus’ life a metaphor for awakening, it is also a clear depiction of how one acts in the world from awakened consciousness.

The story portrays Jesus meeting the world around him from a consciousness centered in Truth as he heals the sick, feeds the hungry and restores the dead to life. These are often referred to as Jesus' miracles.  When viewed metaphorically and metaphysically, we see that all of this represents what happens within each of us as we truly awaken to the Christ and fully engage in our own conscious spirituality. In the presence of awakened consciousness there are unlimited possibilities - spiritual hearing and seeing are activated; paralysis gives way to movement; hunger is satisfied; thirst is quenched; minds and hearts are cleared and opened; and eternal life is realized. They are the effects of our willingness to claim our Truth and live it.

The gospel writers also provide us with an image of Jesus as one who was fully engaged in what some refer to as "spiritually-motivated social action." He showed compassion for the suffering of the world. He did not turn away from those who were in need. He responded to the immediate need before giving spiritual guidance; as in the story of him healing the leper. He healed him of his disease before telling him to go to the temple to participate in a cleansing ritual. He spoke out against the injustice of society and the Roman occupation. With courage and from conviction, he spoke truth to the Sadducees and Pharisees and Priests who he believed were corrupting the Jewish religion.

Jesus did not, after experiencing his baptisms and his time in the wilderness, go into an ashram or climb to the top of a mountain to sit and revel in his awakened state. To the contrary, he walked in the world fully engaged in it. He met the world around him from a consciousness grounded in Truth. He spoke the Truth to those in power. He showed us the way to be fully in the world, while knowing that we are ultimately not of the world. He lived his mission, which he stated clearly, “For this purpose I was born, and for this I came into the world – to testify to the Truth” (John 18:37). Jesus stood firm in the Truth that all creation is of God, thus, One.

In my own spiritual journey, I have experienced Jesus in many ways. In my youth, I knew him as savior; later as a teacher, brother and guide. Albeit, now from a different perspective, I still believe he embodies all of those. Today, however, I am choosing to embrace him as an example of fully engaged spirituality. I encourage us to allow Jesus to be our teacher, our way shower and our example.

Just as it was for Jesus, awakening to our divine nature is just the beginning. It is not a destination, but a journey; one that is continually happening within us. Awakening is not our goal. Our goal is to live lives of fully engaged spirituality.

Join us Sunday at 10:00 as we continue to “Awaken with Jesus” and discover how his life is a metaphor for our own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I Am Christ Expressing

For the past several weeks during our Sunday morning services I have been presenting a series of talks entitled “Awaken with Jesus.”  With the help of the book, Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti, I am exploring the Jesus story as presented by the gospel writers and Paul’s letters in the Bible as a template for our own process of awakening.  As Adyashanti elucidates, from a metaphorical and metaphysical perspective, Jesus’ life represents our individual and collective awakening.  We are awakening from the dream that we are our conditioned consciousness, the myths, messages and beliefs about who we are that we have taken on from our families, society and religion; sometimes referred to as “ego-identification.” We are awakening to our true nature which we call the Christ, also referred to as the ‘I Am’ by Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore.  I have enjoyed exploring the Jesus story from this perspective, and I believe it contains valuable insights for us; however, honestly at times I wonder, “Am I really ready to awaken with Jesus?”

Sure, it sounds good in theory.  We all want to wake up.  We all want to experience enlightenment. We all want to be “saved.”  We all want to experience the promised freedom and peace of awakening from the suffering that we endure as conditioned human beings.  We all want to realize our true nature and live as the empowered beings that we truly are.  Don’t we?  Do we?

I say that I want it, and actually I believe it is all that I truly want.  Ultimately, it is all that any of us wants: It is the soul’s longing for itself.  I want it, and yet I often find myself resisting.  I want it, yet can sometimes be afraid to let go.  I want it, even though I sometimes wonder what will be left of David.  I want it, but only if I can still hold on to a few little pieces of my ego-identified self.  All the while, I know at the core of my being, that if I am to truly awaken I must be willing to let go and allow the Christ, the ‘I Am,’ to be my only awareness.

I am now recognizing that it is not about me.  In fact, in a fully awakened state, we realize that there is not a separate ‘me’; there is only the ‘I Am’ and I am that ‘I Am.’  Awakening is not about awakening within the conditioned consciousness to yet another identification of self, but awakening from identification with or as anything other than our divinity, our Christ nature. 

This truth is portrayed dramatically in the Jesus story when he went with three of his disciples to the top of the mountain and there experienced his transfiguration.  “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes turned white like light.” (Matthew 17:2 Lamsa)  Jesus fully embodied his divinity at that point in his journey.  Unlike Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures who encountered ‘I Am’ in the burning bush, but remained separate from it; Jesus became the Light of Divinity.  In that moment, he realized Oneness.  There was no longer ‘I Am’ (God) and Jesus, but ‘I Am’ as Jesus.

As we choose to awaken we may find ourselves experiencing moments of Oneness, and then times of return to ego-identification.  This is a normal and natural part of our journey, and we have evidence that Jesus did not perpetually maintain that state of consciousness either.  We can take comfort in and be reassured by knowing that our way shower experienced the same paradox.  .  In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest, he prayed “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” (Matthew 26:39) a very human reaction to what he was about to face.  Again, however, he was able to surrender his attachment, and say, “but, let it be, not as I will, but as you will.”  Traditionally this is interpreted as Jesus surrendering to the will of an external God, from our perspective it is evidence of his surrender and his awakening, once again, to the awareness of the ‘I Am’ in which he knew his will and the “Father’s will” are one.  

Time and again, in the Jesus story, we are given glimpses of a man who knew his Oneness and was willing to surrender to it in order to do what he was called to do in the moment.  He was willing to let go of his human condition and respond to the world around him fearlessly from awakened consciousness.  And, in so doing, he revealed to the world the truth of Divine Presence expressing in and through all creation.  Jesus was very clear about his mission. He stated “I am here to bear witness to the Truth.” There is one Truth.  It was his Truth and it is our Truth.  We are the radiance of the ‘I Am’ expressing and we are here to reveal that Truth to the world with every word and every action.

Awakening to the realization of the ‘I Am’ as our true nature is not something we do for ourselves; it is an act of service to humanity and the world.  We have come into the world, just as Jesus did, so that the world through us might be saved from the delusion of separation and awaken to Oneness as the presence of ‘I Am’ expressing.

I am ready!  Are you?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Into the Wilderness

I am continuing with my Lenten series, “Awaken with Jesus,” centered on the book Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti. I am basing my Sunday morning lessons on the book, and I am facilitating a book study on Wednesday evenings from 7:00 to 8:30 which is open to all who are interested. It will continue each Wednesday through April 8, possibly longer depending upon the level of interest and the speed with which we move through the chapters.

During last week’s book study, as we explored Adyashanti’s perspective on the story of Jesus as myth and as metaphor for our own journey of awakening, I was reminded of my own trepidation when I first began exploring the writing of New Thought teachers, such as Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore who said in Atom Smashing Power of Mind,

“We cannot separate Jesus Christ from God or tell where man leaves off and God begins in Him. To say that we are men as Jesus Christ was a man is not exactly true, because He had dropped that personal consciousness by which we separate ourselves from our true God self. He became consciously one with the absolute principle of Being. He proved in His resurrection and ascension that He had no consciousness separate from that of Being, therefore He really was this Being to all intents and purposes.

Yet He attained no more than what is expected of every one of us. ’That they may be one, even as we are’ was His prayer.”

While at the core of my being it felt true, when I began to read and comprehend what Mr. Fillmore was saying, that each of us not only can, but is expected to achieve the level of Oneness consciousness that Jesus did, I was a bit mystified. My thinking went something like, “How can I achieve Jesus’ level of consciousness? There is only one Christ, one son of God, and Jesus is it.” It was actually not until much later in my own journey that I was able to assimilate that Jesus and ‘Christ’ are not synonymous. Even though in some traditions the terms are used interchangeably, in Unity they are distinct.

The traditional Christian assertion is that Jesus was the one and only son of God, born knowing his divinity and living in concert with it from the moment of his birth. In other words, he was born fully awakened in Christ consciousness and he never diverged from it. In Unity we teach that Jesus was a human born into time and space just as each of us is and that his life was a journey of awakening and self-mastery as is ours.

We believe that Jesus was the great example, not the great exception. Like each of us, his personal consciousness was conditioned by his family, the oppressive society in which he lived and the religion of his birth. He, too, had to release himself from the bonds of the personal consciousness, often referred to as ‘ego,’ in order to awaken to his divine nature.
Through a series of events, Jesus awakened to the fullness of the Christ, which as Charles Fillmore said is, “the higher self…the spiritual man…the one complete idea of perfect man in Divine Mind.¹” As in the quote above, Mr. Fillmore reminds us that we are expected to do the same.

When we explore Jesus’ journey as a metaphor for our own process of awakening from an ego-dominated consciousness to the Christ, we can see that although his experiences were dramatic, they can represent the phases we may go through on our path to awakening.

In my lesson last Sunday, I explored the metaphysical significance of Jesus’ baptisms by water and by the Holy Spirit. Baptism by water is an ancient ritual that symbolizes death and rebirth. Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist represents the first phase of his willingness to let go of the constructs of his life, the attachment to his family, work, and society. His baptism by the Holy Spirit signifies his willingness to die to the ego-dominated mind and be resurrected in his Christ consciousness. This is made clear in the story when he hears the voice proclaiming his divinity, “you are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11 NRSV). In that moment, he experienced a conscious awareness of his transcendent nature.

But, the story does not end there. Immediately following his baptism “the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12 NRSV) where he spent forty days and forty nights with the “wild beast” and “Satan.”  This is an essential aspect in the journey of awakening, and this is where I will pick up this coming Sunday.
Like Jesus, when we have an awakening such as the one he experienced, we are often drawn into the wilderness of our own minds. Charles Fillmore said, “In individual consciousness the wilderness is symbolical of the multitude of undisciplined and uncultivated thoughts.²” We are brought face-to-face with all the thoughts that would deny our newly revealed nature. All the things we have been taught to believe about ourselves and the world arise in order to challenge us. We are given the opportunity to release them and let them go.

And, if that weren’t enough, Satan who represents the “great universal negative²” shows up with all the powerful beliefs of collective consciousness to tempt us from our initiatory awakening with promises of pleasure, power and riches, things that the ego-dominated mind often craves.

The story tells us little of what Jesus endured during his forty days and nights in the desert. We can only surmise. However, when we are willing to look at how the “personal consciousness by which we separate ourselves from our true God consciousness” shows up as the limiting thoughts and beliefs in our own minds, we have a pretty good idea of what he was dealing with.  We do know that he persevered. He walked out of the wilderness a changed man ready to continue his journey.

I hope you will join us Sunday as we continue to “Awaken with Jesus.” Join us as we explore how we can have our own wilderness experience and come through it victorious.