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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Resolving Dissonance

The following is a paraphrase of a story included in one of my favorite books, How Then Shall We Live, by Wayne Muller. I told this story at the beginning of my lesson this past Sunday. I have not confirmed that it is factual; regardless, as with many great stories, it speaks of deep truths.

There is a tribe in Africa in which the birthdate of a child is not observed by the day he or she is born, but from the date the child is thought of in its mother’s heart and mind. When the mother knows that a child is to come through her, she sits under a tree in solitude in order to hear the song of the child that is to be born. She then returns to the village and teaches the song to her husband. As they come together physically to conceive the child, they sing the song as a way of inviting it. During her pregnancy, the mother teaches the song to the midwives who sing it during delivery. Throughout the child’s life, the villagers sing the child’s song to remind him/her of it. If the child falls and hurts himself, the villagers gather to comfort him by singing his song. If she does something that may be contrary to the truth of her song, they do not condemn or punish her. Rather, they surround her with love and sing her song to remind her of her truth. Finally, at the time of death, the song is sung one last time.

I resonate with the image of God as a great matrix of energy vibrating as the frequency of Love. I love music and enjoy singing, so I especially appreciate the imagery of each of us being God resonating as beautiful music that we can perceive and express. I enjoy thinking that, metaphorically of course, each of us is the song of Love that God sings.

God’s song is a vibrational frequency, the Source of all, which has no end and no beginning. It is before and beyond our opinions, political or religious beliefs or affiliations, nationalities, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, or any other of the many and various ways we identify ourselves. God’s song is the song of creation, the song of Oneness, the song of Love.

Although we are God’s song, unlike in this African tribe, most of us are not supported and encouraged to learn and sing it. We are taught to sing the songs of our families, cultures and religions. We learn the songs that they sing for themselves and sing to us, expecting to learn them as our own, hoping to be accepted and belong. We superimpose them upon God’s song which gets drowned out by the cacophony of the world around us. We forget the song of God that is singing us.

We often grow so accustomed to singing another’s song that we begin to believe it is ours. We identify with the roles we play, the categories society assigns us, and the beliefs we are taught. When we sing the songs of our assumed identities, we experience discord, because we are not singing God’s song. God’s song is a song of unity, love, joy and peace. God’s song often gets transposed into a song of fear, control, power and greed. That is not our song. We are not singing God’s song if we are singing a song of separation. When so many of us have been taught to sing songs other than God’s song, we often experience dissonance when we come together. God’s song is always harmonious, never dissonant.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where most hold the mistaken belief that violence is a solution to disharmony. We engage in violence against ourselves and each other in an attempt to resolve our dissonance. While some would argue that they are not violent, I believe that we all engage in violence, albeit sometimes unconsciously.

Violence is any thought we think, belief we hold, word we speak or action we take that denies the vibrant life of God – as ourselves or another. Violence, whether mental, verbal, physical, economic, or emotional only serves to further silence God’s song that is each of us in our highest form. It is never the resolution to dissonance within ourselves or in relationship to another.

All of our “isms” are violence, including racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism, to name a few. When we engage in any of those, we are singing learned songs of our history and presumed heritage, and discord results. We have forgotten our song. In the pain of dissonance, we lash out at each other.

This is evidenced by recent events, such as the shooting of Michael Brown and the reactions that erupted in the aftermath, and more recently in Baltimore, Maryland with the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, and the rioting in response. Although we don’t know the full story, and probably never will in either situation, it is obvious that God’s song of Love and Oneness was silenced. We are singing the song of fear and pain. We are responding to the pain of dissonance with violence.

Because we are not taught God’s song and encouraged to sing it, we lose touch with the love, compassion and oneness it embodies. When we are not singing God’s song to each other and for each other, we get lost in the discordant energy of fear. We continue to bear witness to the results.

I was dismayed to see the video of the mother who discovered her son among the protesters in Baltimore and proceeded to attack him physically and verbally. She was reacting to her fear and pain and fighting violence with violence. My heart is broken open with empathy and compassion for her and so many like her. She, too, has not been taught the song of Love and how to sing it. It was with a saddened heart I saw many respond to her action as an example of what should be done to create harmony.

We must intervene. Just as dissonant sounds in music create tension that must be resolved by bringing the chords into harmony, we must we find resolution within ourselves. We must commit ourselves to remembering God’s song as our song. We must take time to sit and listen so that we can sense the frequency; become conscious of when we are singing out of key; and make the necessary tunings so that we are in resonance with it. We must help each other remember the song. And, we must help each other learn to sing it.

Resolving the dissonance between God’s song singing as us and the song we have been singing, brings resolution to the internal conflict and helps us to connect with solutions beyond our learned and commonly adopted violent responses, both within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

In order for us to co-create our vision of a world in which God’s song is freely and openly sung by all, we must remember it, learn it and sing it. And, we must encourage each other to do the same. This requires our willingness to engage in conscious self-connection. It also requires our willingness to have meaningful, conscious and loving connection with others.

Listening for, remembering and singing God’s song begins with our decision to do it. I suggest we begin with the affirmations: I hear God’s song. I learn God’s song. I sing God’s song. These affirmations state a clear intention to align our vibrational frequency with the frequency of Love and Oneness.

Devoting time in the silence is necessary for us to hear God’s song. I recommend at least 15 minutes a day in meditation with the specific intention to listen. Begin with deep breathing, and focus your awareness at the center of your torso, the solar plexus area. Breathe into that area and consciously invite the awareness of God’s song. Release any attachment to “hearing” a melody, we are speaking metaphorically, and simply be open to the experience.

Honest self-connection is essential. It is important for us to be aware of the dissonance between the song we were taught to sing and God’s song that is singing as us. We must be willing to question every belief and release those that are not in harmony. While it requires commitment and conscious attention, it is not difficult. Just as dissonant musical chords create tension, so do conflicting thoughts and beliefs. At the first sign of tension, which can manifest as mild anxiety or agitation, stop and become aware of the song you are singing. Invite God’s song to sing through you instead, and notice the tension ease. Moment by moment, we can consciously choose to align ourselves in the frequency of God’s song of Love.

As we begin to sing God’s song out loud, we encourage others to do the same. We remind them of their song, and invite them to sign along with us. It is my hope that we can learn from the story of the African tribe. Let us gather together to sing the song of Love.

Let us renounce violence as a means of restoring harmony. Let us cease engaging in the strategy of punishment, and instead remind each other of God’s song. Let us, together, manifest the Kingdom of God on the Earth joining together in a chorus of love, kindness, compassion and understanding.

The world is waiting for someone to lead the way. Will it be you?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Walking the Talk

In my post last week I talked about being “triggered” by a comment I recently heard during a group conversation. If you did not read that post, and would like to, please follow this link. In my lesson this past Sunday, I talked about why I was triggered and shared some of my thoughts about our responsibility to respond to human suffering in the world. Also, in observance of Earth Day, I talked about our responsibility to care for Earth and our environment. If you would like to hear that talk, please follow this link, but I request that you finish reading this article first.

After hearing comments from some who were in attendance last Sunday and receiving feedback from others who heard comments, I understand that my talk was a “trigger” for some, stimulating powerful feelings of anger, guilt and pain, among others.  Others were inspired by what I said.  For that, I am grateful.

I am reluctant to admit this, but when I heard comments from and about those who were “triggered” by my message on being “triggered”, I was “triggered” again. I recognized it was a cycle in which I felt angry and defensive. I told myself that my message must not have been heard or that it was misunderstood.  Further, in my mind, I defended my position by telling myself that if they were “triggered” it was because they have work to do around these issues. It pains me to say this, but, yes, I came to realize that I was self-righteous in my conviction that my words and my impactful delivery were justified.

Over the past few days, I have taken time to connect with myself and reflect upon Sunday. While I do not regret what I said or my intention for the lesson, I do mourn the energy from which I expressed. It is painfully clear to me in hindsight that my energy spoke much louder than my words. I use the word ‘painfully’ quite intentionally, because I am pained knowing that I stimulated pain in others. I will do my best to clarify what I mean.

I began my lesson retelling the story of the conversation that triggered me. In doing that, the emotion I originally experienced was stimulated once again. The dismay and anger I felt the first time arose again by just relaying the story. As a result, my entire talk was expressed from that energy. That realization troubles me, and that is what I mourn and regret. Although I know it’s not possible, I would like a “do-over.”

We seldom, if ever, get “do-overs” in life. While I cannot go back and give my Sunday lesson again, as with all life experiences, I can learn and grow as I reflect upon it. Sunday, as well as the subsequent feedback and personal reflection, have reminded me of the importance of self-connection, self-empathy and understanding. This spiritual practice is essential to connecting deeply with others. Only when I connect with my own humanity am I willing and able to connect with the humanity in others. If I could do it over, I would choose to engage in some quality time of self-connection prior to or even during the service on Sunday.

When I take time to connect with myself in response to the suffering in the world and with what I perceive as a lack of care for the Earth, I realize that the emotions beneath the anger are pain and sadness. When I look at the condition of the world and the extent of suffering and need, I also often feel helpless and hopeless. While I know that I want to make a meaningful contribution to the world, the truth is, I don’t know what to do. I trust that we all share the desire to make a difference, and that many can relate to the pain, sadness, and confusion I feel.

Had I been self-connected on Sunday, I would most likely have sat on the edge of the stage and grieved with those present, rather than standing on it to preach. My greatest desire and intention as a spiritual leader is to connect heart-to-heart with those I serve. My highest intention is to always stand in love and do my best to never come from the energy of judgment, fear or lack, which often demonstrates as anger. I now recognize that I did not achieve my highest intention this past Sunday. I mourn any pain I may have stimulated.

My intention for my lesson was to affirm that through prayer we can connect with God and transform our consciousness. From that consciousness of unity in God and with all creation, we respond to all people, as well as the Earth and our environment from love. Love is the highest expression of God as us. I recognize that on Sunday I was not holding the space for this highest expression of love within myself.

I am mindful that Integrity is one of our core values at Unity Church of Denver. When I think of integrity, the phrases, “walk the talk” and “practice what you preach” come to mind. They remind me of the fifth of Unity’s five basic principles which says, “Knowledge of spiritual principles is not enough. We must also live them.” We must be willing to live in alignment with what we say we believe, and live our principles to the best of our ability and capacity in any moment.

On Sunday, my capacity to live in integrity - in the moment - was not where I would have liked, nor did it reflect the attributes for your spiritual leader that I wish to be. I talked about love from the energy of anger and fear, and I mourn that I stimulated pain. I hope that we can connect through our shared humanity of this experience.

It has been a week of growth and revelation for me, and I celebrate this opportunity for us to learn and grow together as a community. I continue to hold you in the light of love, and I trust you will do the same for me. I do not take my responsibilities lightly and my connection with those I serve is important to me. You are important to me.

Please join me on Sunday as we explore together what it means to live in integrity with ourselves and in community with each other.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Would Love Do?

Recently I was in a discussion with others whom I perceived to be spiritually aware. The conversation centered on helping those in need, namely the homeless. One of the participants in the conversation made the statement "the best thing we can do for them is pray.” I was “triggered” when I heard that comment. I felt arising within me irritation, and disappointment. I interpreted the remark to imply that it is not our responsibility to actually provide physical assistance. I felt somewhat dismayed as I experienced my interpretation and evaluation of what had been said.

I am now convinced that I was “triggered” because I have heard similar statements expressed before by people I perceive as loving, caring, and spiritually attuned, and have thought it not a compassionate answer. Further, I have been living in the question, “What is mine to do in response to the suffering in the world?” I have not yet come into my knowing about that. I readily admit that it is often challenging to know how to respond to our brothers and sisters who are hurting, homeless or hungry; however, I believe that it is our responsibility to serve our fellow humans from love. I may not agree that prayer is the “best thing we can do;” however, I do believe it is the first thing we can and should do, and it is just the beginning.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is a spiritual practice that we use in order to transform our own consciousness. Through prayer we align our consciousness with Pure Consciousness, called by many names, among them God, Divine Mind, and Universal Intelligence. As Saint Paul said, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). In order to transform the world, we must begin with our own minds. Prayer is one way to transform our minds.

We must not only transform our consciousness through prayer, we must embody the spirit of Jesus and walk in the world responding to those who show up along our path. As Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, said, “Jesus is not one in whom God specialized: Jesus is one who specialized in God.” Jesus, through the practice of prayer aligned his mind in Oneness, thus “specializing in God.”  This is demonstrated by his words, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30) and “Those who have seen me have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus knew his Unity in God, and he embodied and expressed it.  In the conscious knowing of oneness Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and ministered to those who were hurting. We teach that Jesus is the great example, not the great exception. We must ask ourselves, “How do we follow his example?”

Jesus told his disciples that the greatest commandment is “to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and that the second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). We love God with all our heart, soul and mind when we open to the awareness of Pure Consciousness as our ever-present reality on all levels of our being; when we know our oneness. In the consciousness of oneness, we know our neighbors as ourselves. We hold them in the consciousness of prayer, and we follow Jesus’ example and give from the energy of Love through expressions of care and compassion, not only in the forms of food, clothing and shelter, but also in the forms of a kind word and caring touch.

So, perhaps, rather than asking, “What is mine to do?” a more fitting question for me to ask is “What would Love do?” As I can live in that question and allow the answer to be revealed in every moment, I come nearer to following Jesus’ example. I know it is time for me to take action. But, what action to take? I will follow where Love leads, remain conscious of who and what shows up along my path, and do as I am led.

Please join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service as we explore together the question, “What would Love do?”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Mind of Christ

Lent is concluded, and I have completed my Lenten series, “Awaken with Jesus” based on Adyashanti’s book, Resurrecting Jesus – Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. This past Sunday we joined with billions of Christians around the world to celebrate Easter and honor the resurrection of Jesus, our master teacher and way shower. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said that Easter is “the awakening and raising to spiritual consciousness of the “I AM” in man.¹” For us in Unity, Easter is a celebration of a profound life-changing transformation in consciousness.

I invite us to truly embrace the significance of Easter; to claim Jesus’ evolution of consciousness as our own. As we choose to embody the spirit of the Jesus of the gospels and experience our own shift in consciousness, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds². This transformation allows us to ascend beyond the limited ideas of self that we allow to keep us from living the greatest expression of the Christ we are.

Ascension does not mean that we must relinquish our earthly bodies or that we abdicate responsibility for our creations; rather we rise above our attachment to them in consciousness and see ourselves from a new perspective. We know ourselves as the embodiment of Christ consciousness.

We can choose to set our intention to celebrate Easter every day, to awaken in transformed consciousness and know ourselves as the Christ expressing now. As we set a clear intention in our minds and hearts, we establish a vibrational frequency to which the Universe responds. It is the law of attraction at work. The Christ of our being draws us to, or draws to us, depending on one’s perspective, all that supports us in knowing our Truth.

What we attract may not match our picture of how our life is “supposed” to look. However, from Christ consciousness we know that we are constantly held in the greatest love, and we trust that all unfolds in alignment with the highest and best for all.

Our only work is to continue to know ourselves as the Christ and to keep our minds stayed on that Truth. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” In doing so, we are able to release our attachment to the things of the world, and know the Truth in and through all circumstances of life.

In Atom Smashing Power of Mind, Charles Fillmore said,

“Christian metaphysicians have discovered that man can greatly accelerate the growth in himself of the Christ Mind by using affirmations that identify him with the Christ. These affirmations often are so far beyond the present attainment of the novice as to seem ridiculous, but when it is understood that the statements are grouped about an ideal to be attained, they seem fair and reasonable.”

I invite you to join me in affirming: “The Mind that was in Christ Jesus is my mind now.” This affirmation establishes a clear intention that says to the Universe, “Deliver me to everything that supports realization of my Truth.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Am the Resurrection

Sunday is Easter, celebrated in Christianity as the day when Jesus, who had been crucified and buried in a tomb, resurrected from the dead. In traditional Christianity, belief in the events of Easter as described in the Gospels is essential to one’s salvation. John 3:16, along with John 11:25-26 in which Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” are often used to justify the doctrine that one must believe in Jesus as the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world in order to be “saved” from the eternal fires of hell after death. The promise of Easter, according to traditional Christian belief, is the gift of eternal life in a place called heaven provided one believes in Jesus as the savior. So, for millions around the world, Easter is a celebration of the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrifice.

We in Unity, also celebrate Easter. We celebrate not because we believe that we are “saved” through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We celebrate because when understood metaphysically Easter is a dramatic demonstration of a transformation of consciousness that frees us. In The Revealing Word, Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore says, “The belief that Jesus in an outer way atoned for our sins is not salvation. Salvation is based solely on an inner overcoming, a change in consciousness.” We believe that our master teacher and way shower Jesus exampled for us what is possible when we are released from the bonds of our usual mind-dominated way of being and rise to Christ consciousness.

When Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life…” he was not speaking as the man, Jesus.  Instead, he was speaking from the awareness of the Christ. In other words, he was saying that the “I Am” is the resurrection and the life, and when we know that at the depth of being, we know that our true essence is eternal; it does not die.

The promise of Easter is eternal life, but we need not wait until the death of the body to realize it. We can choose to claim it in any moment, “die” to our habitual way of defining ourselves, and be resurrected in new life as one who embodies the Christ consciousness. In that way we inherit the kingdom of heaven, not a place, but a state of conscious awareness of Unity in God and with all creation.

Easter is our opportunity to stand with our brother, Jesus, and state emphatically, “I Am the resurrection and the life” as we claim our divine nature and consciously choose to free ourselves from the tomb of our limited way of thinking and live from the awareness of the Christ.

I hope you will join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we come together to celebrate Easter.