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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day we designate to give thanks for all the good we enjoy.  We appreciate and spend time with our friends and families.  We share food, and give thanks for the bounty that we have.  We celebrate the freedom, safety and security we are so blessed to experience in this country.  Traditionally, it is a day of gratitude and appreciation for the myriad ways that God (Good) manifests in our lives. 

I encourage you to feel and express appreciation for all the Good that you enjoy. I suggest, too, that you allow yourself to appreciate all the Good that you are.  Let this Thanksgiving be a celebration, not just for what you have, but also for what you are – a unique and wondrous expression of the Divine.

Feel appreciation for God (Good) expressing as your life, not just in your life, and then from that feeling place give of all the Good that you are.

Unity principles teach that (1) God is Good; (2) You are that Good; (3) You manifest Good by focusing on that Good; (4) You become conscious of that Good through prayer (also appreciation);  and (5) You live that Good by sharing it with the world.

As singer-songwriter, Jana Stanfield, says, “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.”  The world needs all the Good (God) that you are.  And, you can only share it when you claim it, appreciate it, and allow it to flow freely as you in all that you do.

Appreciate you.  Experience a feeling of “Thanks” in your heart.  Give to yourself and from your Self to bless the world.

Have a Joy-full Thanks-Giving! 

Blessings, David

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Reason for the Season

This morning as I was enjoying my coffee and paging through Facebook, I came upon a frequent Christmastime post - “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I was triggered. It stimulated within me feelings of frustration and even anger.

So, I sat with my anger and invited awareness, asking “What thoughts are associated with this anger?” And, “What am I valuing that I am telling myself is not being honored?”

When I hear or read “Jesus is the reason for the season” I assume that the one expressing the idea holds to traditional Christian theology, and believes that Jesus was born for one purpose only - to die in order to save humanity from eternal damnation, therefore his birth is worthy of celebration.

This helped me realize I felt anger because I had judgement about the one who posted it. My evaluation of him is that he has a distorted idea of what it means to be a Christian, as well as of Jesus’ teaching, and of the true “reason for the season.” He would probably say the same about me.

I fully accept that I do not know what this person believes. I was projecting all of this onto him. I am aware that in truth, it is all about me and my “stuff.” And, I celebrate that. I love that a Facebook post can stimulate an internal process that brings all of this up for me to explore. I am grateful for the synchronicity of it all. I love it when I get to explore my “hot buttons.” I want to share with you the totality of what came up for me.

In Unity, we do not believe the sole dogma that Jesus was the one and only son of God sent to redeem the world. So, how can we then say that we are Christian? And, why in the world do we celebrate Christmas anyway?

We celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus. But our celebration is not because he was sent as God’s sacrificial lamb to be slain as atonement for the sins of humanity. In Unity, we teach that Jesus was a man who embodied the ultimate Christ potential, and he instructed his followers how to do the same. Additionally, we teach and believe that Jesus taught the Christ is not one unique person, but the spiritual essence of every person. Jesus awakened to this Ultimate Reality and lived it. He realized his Oneness with God, and lived and taught completely from that consciousness – the Christ consciousness.

We consider ourselves Christian, not because we subscribe to the doctrine that professing a belief in Jesus Christ as the one and only son of God sent to be the savior of the world defines one as a Christian. A Christian, by our definition, is one who is a practitioner of the Christ consciousness. The suffix “ian” in the English language is an agentive ending – a linguistic form indicating an agent or doer.  When “ian” is added to the end of a word it is meant to be a descriptive of one who does or practices the thing it describes, for example, a librarian is one who practices library science and a magician is one who does magic.  It would follow then that a Christian is one who practices Christ.  Even though the term “Christian” was not used until after Jesus’ death to refer to his followers – those who created a religion about him – Jesus was the Christian. His followers desired to epitomize his example.

We celebrate Jesus as a master, the ultimate wayshower. He was able to perform what others saw as miracles, demonstrating over the elements through mastery of the spiritual and universal laws. He was acting as Spirit upon spirit and substance in order to shape and control matter. That is how he was able to affect healing in the bodies of others. That is how he was able to multiply the loaves and fishes. That is how he was able to walk on water. That is how he was able to resurrect the body and appear to his followers after having been crucified and in the tomb for three days. They were not miracles in the sense that they occurred outside of spiritual and universal laws, they were the results of masterful application of spiritual and universal laws.

Jesus never sought to start a religion. He never asked to be worshipped. He did not claim to have any special powers or dispensation from God that was not also available to everyone. Time and again, He said things such as, “It is not I but the Father within that does the work” (John 14:10). He also gave us the assurance that those who follow his example and embody the Christ “will do even greater works” than he did. (John 14:12)

We honor Jesus as a teacher, a rabbi, who was doing his best to instruct those who followed him (especially the twelve) how to have a personal and profound relationship with the Creator, God, Father, whom he called “Abba.”

One of my favorite Bible stories of Jesus’ teaching is from Luke 10:38-42. Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha, sisters of his friend, Lazarus. While Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him talk and teach, and absorbing his countenance, Martha is busy in the kitchen preparing the meal. When Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus lovingly replies that Mary has chosen the better path. Metaphysically, Martha represents “doing” while Mary represents the heart that is open and receptive to the transmission of the energy that Jesus is attempting to share. The teaching does not mean that Mary was at a higher standing because she literally was worshipping Jesus or sitting at his feet. Metaphorically, it teaches us the value of stopping the busyness of our activities, and spending time in quiet contemplation, reflection and meditation upon the Christ¹ ideal. Mary, probably more than any of the twelve disciples, was open to receive and truly hear what Jesus was here to impart because it is in the heart, which she signifies, that true knowing occurs.

We revere Jesus as a teacher of Oneness. Jesus did not teach separation, but rather inclusion. He did not stand for judgment or hate, but acceptance, forgiveness and love. Yes, he criticized the practices of the Sadducees, Pharisees and Temple Priest of his Jewish faith. He did so because he was distressed as he witnessed a religion and a society that was no longer serving God by helping people to have a transcendent experience of the Divine through worship and ceremony, but instead were serving themselves and the hierocracy of the religious stratum. Based on how he lived and what he taught, I have to think that Jesus would be dismayed by the religion that was created in his name. I can imagine him in this desperation “turning over the tables in the temples” once again to call attention to the hypocrisy of many who consider themselves his followers and call themselves “Christian.”

We celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus – a teacher, a light of truth and grace who was here to impart wisdom, and who desired to initiate his followers in the way of what we have come to know as the ‘Christ.’ We aspire to learn his teachings and follow his example.

Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season. His birth is reason to celebrate because of the consciousness he embodied, the truth he taught, and the life he exampled.

Join us Sunday as we begin our series entitled, A Season of Wonder. We will open ourselves to the wonder of the Christmas season as we explore it from mystical and metaphysical perspectives.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Celebrate Our Humanity

When I was a child, Thanksgiving, even more so than Christmas, was a time for gathering with family, both immediate and extended. It was a time to acknowledge and celebrate the bond we shared. From my adult perspective I know that it was not the romanticized Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving family, but from my perspective at the time that is exactly what it was.  And even today, I choose to remember it that way. I realize that not everyone has such childhood memories. I am grateful that I remember it as I do. It is a warm memory of love, nurture and safety. 

It has been many years since I have been with my family of birth on Thanksgiving. I have blamed time and distance, but in truth I know that I could have easily made the choice to travel to Georgia many times over the years, especially during the holidays: I simply made other choices. I made those choices because as I grew older the childhood Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving image I cherished faded and was replaced with a grainy Polaroid depicting dysfunction and loneliness. Until recently, I have chosen to distance myself from my family because I have judged them. I have blamed them. I have labeled them. I have instilled in my mind a picture of each of them, and I have related to them as who I believed them to be.

I say “until recently” because I have experienced an epiphany. It may, at best, seem odd that I am just now realizing this truth, but I have recently recognized that my family members are not static images any more than I am. I acknowledge and celebrate that I have changed and grown. Why would I think that they haven’t?

Not one of us is the same person he or she was – even five minutes ago. Likewise, neither are our spouses, partners, friends, co-workers, children, parents or others - no matter what labels we choose to put on them. When we label ourselves or others, we assign a fixed identity to one who in reality is a vibrant and ever-changing being through which the One Life is expressing. We are constantly evolving beings, expressing from new perspectives, and encountering new thoughts and emotions moment by moment. When we label, we limit.  We relate and interact around that label only. But we are not labels. We are not even the roles we play. We are fully alive as thinking, feeling and connecting beings, constantly changing. It is vital to our well-being that we acknowledge this – for others and for ourselves. It is important that we honor this aspect of our humanity because the Divine is expressing and experiencing itself as our humanity. When we label or deny our humanity, we deprive ourselves and the world of an integral aspect of Life itself.

I recently began reading, The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be, by Mark Nepo. The “endless practice,” referred to in the title is the practice of being fully engaged in experiencing our humanity. He says,

“To bring who we are out and to let the world in is a brave and endless practice that clarifies and solidifies the gifts we are born with. There is no arrival point or destination here, only the chance to be more alive as we move closer to the Mystery…The ever-changing practice of being human involves learning how to strengthen our heart by exercising it in the world through caring, building, holding and repairing.”

We honor our humanity by engaging in a relationship with ourselves, not as static beings, but as fully alive, fluid, ecstatic and sensuous human beings. We engage with ourselves in order that we may engage with life, including the life that is being expressed as every other person we encounter as well as every animal, plant and other life form. Before we can connect with another where they are, we must be willing to connect with ourselves where we are. And, we must be willing to stand with authenticity and integrity to speak our truth, whatever that truth happens to be in the moment, knowing that it is fluid. We must be willing to acknowledge and celebrate ourselves – what we need and what we feel – before we can enter into a meaningful relationship with another. Until we are available to and for ourselves, we will not be able to truly be present with another and what they think, feel and need. 

As we observe the tradition of Thanksgiving this year, whether it is with our birth family, our spiritual family, or family of choice, my prayer is that we take time to center ourselves in the awareness of the Life that is expressing as our humanity. May we see the perfection present in it, honor our feelings and needs, and celebrate them. My hope is that each of us enters into an intimate relationship with ourselves, and then becomes willing to enter into a consciously connected relationship with others, letting go of any preconceived ideas or static images of who they are and, instead, opening to their humanity. Listen to the hopes and dreams, desires and disappointments, fear and love being expressed behind the words. Listen with the heart and hear what is not being said. Listen for the humanity beneath the label. Honor humanity connecting with humanity, and know that it is, in truth, the Divine reflecting itself through the human form.

I hope you will join us on Sunday as we come together for a time of connecting with each other as a spiritual family. We will celebrate our humanity with a meal of thanks-giving after the 10:00 service. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Living a Life that Matters

Monday, I returned home to Denver from a week-long vacation in California. I had anticipated a week of rest, rejuvenation and renewal. I was hoping for a break from my usual routine which often seems to be filled with constant activity, both physical and mental. If I am to be totally honest, more than just a vacation, I was seeking a respite from myself. But, as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” That certainly proved to be true.

While I was able to rest, relax and rejuvenate physically in the beautiful surroundings of a friend’s home in San Diego for a few days, and in a private garden apartment in Oakland over the weekend, I was unable to escape from my mental activity and what, at times, seems to be a compulsion for self-reflection and contemplation.

It began at Denver International Airport the day of our departure. As we moved through the security checkpoint line I found myself becoming keenly aware of the other people standing in line waiting their turn. As we passed through security and made our way to the tram that would take us to our terminal, I continued to notice, in a way I had not done before, the crowd of people riding up and down the escalator on their way to an airplane that would take them somewhere or from an airplane that had recently delivered them to Denver.

I wondered, “How many people fly on commercial aircraft on an average day?” Fortunately, with the aid of modern technology, answers to questions such as that are in the palms of our hands. When I arrived at the gate I looked it up on my iPhone. I was amazed to learn that over 8 million people travel by airplane on an average day. That more than 3 billion people fly annual was an even more astounding statistic.

Becoming aware of my fellow human beings at the airport that day triggered a contemplation that continued throughout the week, and on which I am still ruminating.

I wondered about their lives. Where had they been? Where are they going? What is going on in their lives? What are they concerned about? What do they care about? What really matters to them? I realize that the answers to those questions are as diverse as the people themselves.

My awareness continued as we arrived in San Diego, picked up our rental car and ventured out into rush hour traffic. Again, I was acutely aware of the people, this time in cars going to and from places I have never been and have no knowledge of.

I was curious. What must their lives be like? How different are their lives from mine? What really matters to them?

I wondered, if they, like me, often don’t notice others around them because they get so caught up in their own daily mental and physical activities. Are we so focused on just making it through another day that we don’t take time to consider each other?

This brought me to a deeper question, “Does most of what we do on a daily basis really matter?” More specifically, I wondered, “Does what I do on a daily basis really matter?

I realized more intensely than ever before the infinitesimal part each of us plays in the whole of humanity. I wondered whether there is any real significance to my minuscule part in it all. And, if so, what?

Ultimately, I questioned, “Does one life, specifically my life, really matter?”

This led me to question whether it is important to me for my life to matter. I wondered if I am on some Ego trip. Do I want people to notice me? Do I want to be special? Do I want to leave a legacy? Do I want my life to matter so that people will admire and honor me? I have pondered those questions and come to the conclusion that, no, that’s not really it.

I wondered if my question was more about whether I am making a meaningful contribution to others or to humanity in general, and whether that is really what matters to me. Do I want what I do and who I am to matter to others because I contribute to their lives? Well, yes, I want to contribute to others in ways that are meaningful to them. Yet, that still did not capture the essence of my questioning.

After considerable contemplation and consternation, I think I have arrived at the crux of the matter. Rather than, “Does my life matter?” the question became, “What matters to me, and am I serving it to the best of my ability?” When I landed there it felt like a truer and more honest question. I felt some relief and an inner knowing that if I can connect with what truly matters to me and do my best to serve it, I will live a life that matters.

I do believe that what matters to each of us is ultimately what matters. Further, if we are living our lives in service to what truly matters to us in ways that are compassionate and loving to others and ourselves, we are contributing to the overall well-being of the whole.

Additionally, I recognized that what matters to us is informed by many things, including our unique expression of God/Creative Life Force/Source, which some refer to as our ‘soul,’ also by our life experiences, as well as by situations and circumstances in the world that touch us and open our hearts. Also, what matters to us is not static. It is fluid and changes as we grow and change.

Over the course of the past days, I have recognized more powerfully than ever before that in the great journey of humanity I am but one traveler among billions, and that we are companions on the path, co-creating this experience we call life. It may appear that we are doing it independently; yet, we are inextricably connected to the whole. Further, everything we do matters in some way.

I encourage us to recognize that every life matters. Every thought matters. Every word matters. Every action matters.  My hope and prayer is that we all connect deeply with what matters to us, and do our best to allow every step we take to be in service to it while honoring and valuing each other along the way.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore “Living a Life that Matters.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

In The World

When I first began my conscious spiritual quest, I believed that if I meditated and engaged in other spiritual practices every day I would eventually become enlightened, transcend the cares of the world, and live in a perpetual state of bliss. In fact, if I am totally honest, I held on to that dream until fairly recently. I hoped that when I “arrived”  I would no longer have to deal with the concerns of everyday life. I took the idea of being “in the world, but not of the world” to heart and believed that my purpose, through spiritual practice, was to transform beyond the human experience. 

My attitude was, “Alas, I am here in this physical world, and I don’t have to like it nor do I have to deal with all of that painful stuff that comes along with being human because I can choose to practice staying connected in Spirit.”  After all, in John 17:14-19, Jesus said that he was not of the world and neither were his disciples. So I figured that being a disciple of the Christ (connecting with and following my Divine Nature within) would give me a pass on this worldly stuff.

I have since discovered, and I am continuing to learn that living a “spiritual life” is not about escaping the world, but about living more fully present while in it and responding to it accordingly from a consciousness centered in divine nature. Further, as I stated in last week’s post, in addition to waking up, it is vitally important for me to grow up. When I say, “Grow up” I mean not only to mature in my spiritual understanding, but also to grow in my ability to live my spirituality and be the expression of an awakened consciousness in my daily life. This necessitates that I consciously develop my innate capacities and abilities as well as learn and practice skills that will assist me in living my spiritual values and highest ideals. 

This awareness has given me a new perspective on the slogan, “in the world, not of the world.” Rather than focusing on being “not of the world,” my emphasis is now on being “in the world.” I now see this as a reminder to be fully in the world and to show up to the best of my ability in every situation in every moment, holding to the expanded awareness of my Divine Nature. This does not mean that any of us has to be perfect or do things flawlessly all the time. It does, however, require that we have the intention to grow in our ability to be present as the best version or ourselves  possible in each moment. In order to achieve that, you and I must be willing to continually learn new skills and hone them through practice. As the saying goes, “practice makes progress.”

Rather than approaching life with an “Alas” attitude, I am choosing to meet life with an “Oh Boy!” attitude - as in “Oh, Boy! I get to be in this physical experience learning and growing in my ability to live from my highest ideals and values. I get to do this every day that I am here, and be the best version of the Christ I can be at any moment. And, when I don’t live up to my best potential, I get to try again tomorrow.” 

Most of us are taught how to survive in the world. Some of us are also privileged to be given instructions to thrive socially and economically. We are not, however, routinely taught skills that help us to become self-aware, self-actualized, compassionate and caring citizens of the world who respect and value each other and all expressions of Life. 

There is a great deal of pain and suffering in the world. If we are to help relieve it, we must learn to be with it within ourselves and for others. We must learn skills that help us respond to it through our words and actions. As we learn and grow in our capacities to live from our spiritually awakened consciousness through actions that are in alignment with them, we embody “being in the world, but not of it.”

We are a global community, and we are co-creating this experience. We share the planet Earth and her resources. We breathe the same air. Our very survival depends upon us taking it upon ourselves to learn how to interact with others who are different from us. We must learn skills to foster self-awareness, self-compassion and self-forgiveness so that we can extend the same to others. We must learn interpersonal skills that serve to connect us. We must learn about our own worldview, and learn to hear and respect that of others. 

Prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices help us to connect consciously with aspects that are “not of the world.” They are essential practices that strengthen us and prepare us to do the work that is required of us to “be in the world” – fully, authentically and wholeheartedly. I encourage us to know at the depth of our being that we are not defined by any aspect of the world, while also holding to the awareness that we are in it and therefore responsible to it. Let us take our responsibility to heart and bring the best version of ourselves to every moment.