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Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE CHRISTIAN MEANING OF ENLIGHTMENT

This video was recorded at Science and Nonduality Conference in 2011. Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Priest and an Author. In this excellent talk he presents the similarities, the differences, and the complementarities between the Eastern and Western understandings of transformation. Some have called the goal enlightenment, some salvation, some ecstasy, nirvana, or heaven. What is the goal of the spiritual journey according to the main line Christian tradition? What Christian spirituality has called the unitive way has often described as non-dual consciousness by Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Are we often seeking the same thing? How can we honor and respect each of these spiritual traditions?                        



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FINDING CONNECTION THROUGH SOLITUDE

A couple of years ago, I read Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation.  Merton (seeing as how he was a monk) was big on solitude, and said that it's only by spending time in solitude that we can truly come to love others.  At that time, I couldn't understand how solitude could contribute to a greater love for our fellow beings...

But when it comes right down to it, isn't unity with the Divine and with fellow beings what we're all looking for?  Isn't that the essence of the spiritual path?  Michael Brown, author of the Presence Process, said "It was not enlightenment I was looking for at all; it was intimacy.  I was desperately seeking intimacy with myself, with God, with nature, with my family, with all humans I encountered, with my cats, with my writing, with plants, with the falling rain, with my pain, with my dreams and visions, and with all the minute aspects of this experience we call 'living our life,' like washing dishes and doing laundry.” It is not enlightenment we all crave, it's intimacy.  But to achieve intimacy, we've got to overcome what separates us.  That's why we have to "go inside" and get to know all the aspects of ourselves, become self-aware.  Humility develops as we face those inner demons common to all of us.   Only in becoming conscious of the forces that drive us we can conceive of the forces that may drive others.  In so doing, we come to see that we're all deeply the same, each of us capable of the greatest good and the greatest evil.  As we develop compassion for our own failings, compassion for others grows.  From this perspective, we become capable of genuine forgiveness; the barriers come down and we can end the separation! 

Solitude is a tough discipline that takes great courage.  Most of us would rather do anything than spend time alone in self-reflection in order to face ourselves!  It's one reason we tend to keep our minds so busy with activities; keeping our minds busy prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are (warts and all). It is only in solitude and stillness that we can connect with what's really going on inside of us.  And connection to other beings is not possible unless that self-connection is first established.  Spending time A-Lone leads to the understanding that we are All-One...this heart-felt knowledge enables us to relate to one another with Love and Intimacy.   And, isn't that what we're all really longing for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

HOW TO CREATE A WORLD THAT WORKS FOR ALL

I'm still thinking about the message of  Occupy Wall Street; still yearning for a way forward that will lead to a more peaceful, equitable, and environmentally sustainable world that will benefit and meet the needs of all. I read several thought-provoking posts on this subject at Commonway Praxis, a blog written by Dr. Sharif Abdullah.  The following quote is from Dr. Abdullah's book, Creating A World That Works For All:
"We live in a world that works for only a few.  The problem  is exclusivity: the fundamental belief that we are separate  from one another.  All beings, all things, are One.  Our lives  are inextricably linked one to another.  Because of this, we cannot wage war against anything or  anyone without  waging war against ourselves.    Therefore, we are obliged to treat all beings the way we want to be treated.  There are no 'enemies' - all beings are expressions of the Sacred and must  be treated as such.  Some being cause pain to others; this does not meant that they are enemies.   Some beings are food for others; this is all the more reason to treat them as sacred.  Once we understand that we are interconnected, we have the responsibility to create a world that works for all."
"With this as our goal, the next question is obvious: how do we achieve it?  How do we avoid sinking into despair or cynicism?  And how do we avoid dabbling in utopian fantasies or engaging in 'pie-in-the-sky' religiosity?  In fact, we can change this world right now by shifting our consciousness and our values from a foundation of exclusivity to one of inclusivity. This shift in consciousness is the core of the world's major religions.  The essence of the moral code they urge upon us is inclusivity:

         What is hateful to you, do not do to others.  ~RABBI HILLEL

         Do not hurt others with that which hurts yourself.    ~ BUDDHA

         Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you.  ~ JESUS
                   None of you is a believer until you love for your neighbor what you love for 
                    yourself.  ~ MUHAMMAD                                                                                                              
"Considering the clarity, simplicity, and consistency of these statements, one has to wonder what it is about the message of inclusivity that makes it nearly impossible for people to either comprehend or implement.  Why are there Jews, Buddhists Christians, Muslims, and many others around the world who are killing their fellow men and women when their traditions call for peace, nonviolence, and inclusivity?"
For me, the HOW is the missing piece that I've been searching for.  How do we implement the spiritual truths found in all the world's religions?  How do we put our spiritual teachings into concrete practice in our daily lives?  How do we embody the Divine and bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to this Earth that we all live on? 

Well, I'm very excited about a tool I recently learned about that's really answering the big HOW question for me.  Non Violent Communication, developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, is much more than a communication method but a practical way to connect with "others" and live with Love toward all - beginning with our interpersonal relationships and expanding to peace at the global level. It is a way to practice the connections that make violence both inappropriate and impossible.  Below is the first in a series of Youtube videos filmed during a one-day introductory workshop in which Marshall Rosenberg teaches the basics of Non Violent Communication.  Altogether, more than three hours of this workshop can be viewed free of charge! 



Dr. Rosenberg's book is Non Violent Communication: A Language of Life.  Many additional resources can also be found online at the Center for Non Violent Communication and the NVC Academy.

By the way, PuddleDancer Press, the premier publisher of Nonviolent Communication related books, has recently donated hundreds of books on Non Violent Communication to various Occupy Wall Street libraries.                                                                              
                                                        


Sunday, October 30, 2011

BUILDING A CARING ECONOMY: CARING PAYS!

Occupy Wall Street and the current economic condition of our country leave me wondering: Is there a way BEYOND left vs. right, Republican vs. Democrat, capitalist vs. socialist?  Is there a way FORWARD that will lead to a more peaceful, equitable, and environmentally sustainable world that will benefit and meet the needs of all?  

Well, I was delighted to discover Riane Eisler, who has devised a very sensible economic plan - a plan which demonstrates how caring for humans and the planet can actually be profitable.  Dr. Eisler (who is a social scientist, attorney, and internationally known author who is included in the award-winning book Great Peacemakers as one of 20 leaders for world peace, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King) talks about her book The Real Wealth of the Nations and the need for an economics of caring in the following video:





Dr. Eisler's "Full Spectrum Job Creation Proposal: The Roadmap to a New Caring Economy,"  was submitted to President Obama in 2009 and can be read in it's entirety here.  Visit Dr. Eisler's websites here, here, and here for a wealth of additional material and to discover ways you can become involved.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WHAT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST?



Spiritual Insight from the David Ord's book Your Forgotten Self:

The body of Christ isn’t synonymous with Christianity.  It isn’t correlated with the churches. What it may be hard for many Christians to accept is that the body of Christ can be found among people of all faiths: Christians, Jews, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, and so on.  The body of Christ is far more encompassing and includes the entirety of humanity.

“Christ” is a term, not a surname for Jesus of Nazareth. It’s the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term messiah, meaning the anointed one. It used to be the term used for Israel’s kings, who were anointed with oil to signify their choice by God for the throne.

The messiah—the savior of the world—isn’t an individual, but is the whole of humanity empowered to at last be true to themselves as the image and likeness of God.

Jesus is definitive of what the Christ reality looks like, and in that sense he’s the “head” of the body. But a head is useless without the rest of the body. The body of Christ—that which will save humanity from its broken state—is comprised of all who begin to move out of the normal unconsciousness of human beings and into the enlightenment of consciousness. They become aware of the divine presence at the heart of their being, the heart of all being.

The term “Adam” doesn’t refer to a real person but is a symbol of humanity in our unconscious state. So too the Christ isn’t a single individual but is a symbol of humanity as we become conscious. This collective reality is made up of all who have become conscious of their oneness with God. When this awareness takes over our lives, we become a more evolved human, as was Jesus. He represents the next leap in our development as a species and is definitive of the new humanity emerging on the planet.

When we read that there's "no other name given by which we must be saved," it's not about saying a name, but about becoming what Jesus was: a conscious person. "In Jesus' name" isn't a statement to be tacked onto the end of prayers like a magical charm. His name represents the divine nature. When we awaken to the divine nature in ourselves, the image and likeness of God that we have always been but lost sight of, we become as Jesus was. It's in this sense there's "no other name." You have to become conscious in the way he was.

As awareness of our oneness with God increases, the impact isn’t just personal. It changes how we relate to each other. Recognition of our oneness with God leads to oneness among us. All barriers between the world’s peoples are broken down. The future of the human race involves the gathering together of all races and creeds to form one new human being. This collective “one new human being” is the Christ. You can read about this new humanity in Ephesians 2:15-22, where it’s likened to a house in which God dwells.

The divine dwells in us. As we recognize this in ourselves, we become the Christ that will save the world from its turmoil and usher in what Eckhart Tolle calls A New Earth—or in more ancient language, the kingdom of God.

This entire article can be accessed at The Body of Christ Means Conscious Individuals.

Friday, October 7, 2011

WAR OF THE WORLDVIEWS - Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow

In this video hosted by Huffington Post, Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow discuss their newly released book "War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality."  The book promotion on Deepak Chopra's website says, "These two great thinkers battle over the cosmos, evolution and life, the human brain, and God, probing the fundamental questions that define the human experience." These topics greatly interest me, and I found their video discussion quite informative.  It's refreshing that although they do disagree, they are able to engage in an open and non-antagonistic dialogue and seem willing to learn from each other.  I think we need more discussions like this, not only between science and spirituality, but between religious denominations, faith groups, belief systems, politicians, special interest groups, cultures, and people groups throughout the world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WATCH FREE MINDFULNESS CONFERENCE ONLINE



Sounds True is one of the sponsors of the Creating a Mindful Society  event, held in conjunction with the Omega INstitute in New York City.  Conference headliners include Jon Kabat-Zinn, psychologist Richard Davidson, Buddhist teacher and author Barry Boyce, and U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, among others.  Sounds True is offering live free on-demand viewing through January 31, 2012.

Mindfulness is a simple yet profound practice that changes lives. If you’re committed to mindful living, eager to learn more about its growing influence across all facets of society, or only beginning to discover the transformative power of mindfulness, watch this historic conference on Creating a Mindful Society.

This pioneering event in New York City will feature keynote presentations by four outstanding leaders in the mindfulness field plus a rich program of dialogue and practice sessions. Together, we will explore all the proven, practical ways that mindfulness can transform our lives from the inside out—and help reshape society, from health, work, and family to education, leadership, and policy.  Details here and at http://live.soundstrue.com/event.

I would have loved to have been there, but it was pretty awesome to be able to watch it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

WHAT COLOR IS YOUR JESUS?

I recently listened to an interview with Bruce Sanguin and Rev. Kelly Isola in which Sanguin talked about how he’s applying the Spiral Dynamics model of human development to explain why Jesus means so many different things to so many different people. 

I have been a fan of Spiral Dynamics for quite some time.  Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 book by Don Beck and Chris Cowan which was based on the work of professor Clare W. Graves.  This theory explores the process of human emergence and how living systems evolve, grow and change.  Each new level transcends and includes all previous levels.

 The following diagram illustrates the different levels of development and their associated characteristics:

vMEMEs
COLOR
THEME FOCUS VALUE SYSTEMS

LEVEL 1 (A-N)

BEIGE

SurvivalSense

"ME"

Group bands together
to stay alive

LEVEL 2 (B-O)

PURPLE

KinSpirits

"WE"

The sense of family-tribe
with time honored

LEVEL 3 (C-P)

RED

PowerGods

"ME"

Power-action driven,
egocentric

LEVEL 4 (D-Q)

BLUE

TruthForce

"WE"

Purposeful, absolutist,
"one right way"

LEVEL 5 (E-R)

ORANGE

StriveDrive

"ME"

Entrepreneurial,materialistic,
success-driven

LEVEL 6 (F-S)

GREEN

HumanBond

"WE"

Community,harmony,
equality,relativistic

LEVEL 7 (G-T)

YELLOW

FlexFlow

"ME"
Natural processes, mutual realities; live for mutuality

LEVEL 8 (H-U)

TURQUOISE

GlobalView

"WE"
Harmony, holism, spirituality


In his book The Emerging Church, Sanguin applies these stages to how Christians see Christ.  Each stage's view has a positive and a negative aspect:

Purple--Christ is the Tribal Christ. "He makes the world go 'round when proper ritual is performed....He answers the prayers of those who are obedient." (p. 94).
The negative can be superstition: praying for football victories, parking spots, and miracle cures.
Red--The Warrior Christ. "Followers of the Red Christ go with him into battle on behalf of their tribe, nation, or belief system....In its most positive expression, following this Christ gives us the energy to "fight" for what we believe in--to take a stand."
But, "The Red Christ led the Christian armies in the crusades. He also led the U.S. army into Iraq." (p. 94)

Blue--The Traditional Christ, a Divine Scapegoat. "As part of the divine plan, God sends his only son to suffer and die on behalf of humanity, modelling sacrifice of self for a future reward....Christ's own sacrifice invites followers to led lives of self-sacrificial love, with the hope of eternal reward.
But...he can be used in a triumphalistic manner. He is the only truth, the only way, and the only life, and if you don't believe it you're going to hell." (p. 95 emphasis author's)

Orange--The Modern Demythologized Christ and Christ as CEO. "Christ is seen as the human one, a teacher of spiritual wisdom....In its positive expression, the Orange stage helps us transcend the literalism of previous levels....modernist values give us permission to think for ourselves.
But......In its negative expression, the Orange level leaves no room for Spirit." (p. 95)

Green--The Egalitarian-Postmodern Christ. "The postmodern Christ embraces multiple cultures and downplays the "Truth" of any particular religious system. The Green Christ draws the circle ever wider, so that it includes the outcasts, the left-behinds, and the marginalized.
But...In its negative expression, followers of the Green Christ are impatient and dismissive of all other value systems." (p. 96)

Yellow--The Integral/Ecological/Cosmic Christ. "The Yellow, integral Christ encompasses the universe and all cultures as an integrated ecology of systems....Followers of this Christ become fascinated by the world that the new sciences are discovering, and by how this world connects to the core metaphors and narratives of the Judeo-Christian tradition." (p. 96)
 But...elitist thinking and impatience with those perceived to be 'below' this stage.
Turquoise-The Mystical Christ. "At this level, the world is experienced--not merely conceptualized--as one. A follower of this Christ does not merely perceive the universe an integrated whole. She knows herself to be a form of the integrated whole, the part in whom the whole is manifest. The great diversity of life is also an expression of the Holy One. All of life is sacred revelation, for those with eyes to see." (p. 97, emphasis author)
(Thanks to John Shuck at Shuck & Jive, for this summary).

 
I can see my own journey reflected in this spiral. Although it has not been a smooth journey (I'm more than sure that I've expressed both positive and negative traits at each stage!), I've traveled through magical thinking, dealt with anger problems and judgmentalism, escaped the bonds of fundamentalism, questioned everything I ever thought was true, and come to a place where I can embrace the Oneness and inclusiveness of the Divine.

I fully believe we need to have space for people to think for themselves and ask questions, but I've been puzzled lately by the attitudes of some (certainly not all!) skeptics that I've encountered on blogs and in comment threads.   So what was really illuminating for me was Sanguin's perspective on the unhealthy aspect of the Orange meme's worldview.  This seems to fit with what I'm encountering: a tendency to leave out spirit; a mindset that rejects the spiritual completely and reduces everything to the level of matter and empirical evidence.  Throwing the baby (spirit) out with the bathwater (mythic literalism), so to speak

In his book, Sanguin describes healthy Orange: "The orange value system embraces scientific rationalism...Within this system, Christ is seen as the human one, a teacher of spiritual wisdom.  The divinity of Christ is downplayed in favor of the flesh-and-blood human being...In the scientific era, we learned that Christ didn't actually walk on water, heal the blind, or raise from the dead.  These are rich metaphors, but not to be taken literally...In its positive expression, the orange stage helps us to transcend the literalism of the previous levels" (p. 95).

According to Ken Wilber in his book Integral Spirituality, both modern science and religion have confused the premodern mythic level with spirituality itself. He went on to say that religion itself needs to make room for and sanction the orange, or modernistic, interpretations of its religious messages.  Wilber recommended the works of John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Stephen Carter, and F. Forrester Church as religious and spiritual writers who have emphasized the orange interpretation of Christianity without dispensing with spirituality (p. 178-179).

To disregard any level of development leads to rigidity and lack of growth.  Let us allow room for one another to retain a connection with the Divine at whatever developmental level we find ourselves.  May we encourage one another to grow and transcend each level in a healthy manner, and may each of us enter into the place where all of life is experienced as sacred.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

PROPHECY AND THE GREAT FLOOD

The following article blew me away!  I found the perspective on Reality as viewed through the minds of primitive peoples to be fascinating.  The application for today is even more fascinating.  The article  is taken from The Doctrine of Oneness website.

"A Great Flood is coming...

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.”

Noah received Revelation to build a great Ark. He shared the message of the coming Great Flood with his people but the community heckled and rejected him.

Our Earth is 4.6 billion years old, and global temperature fluctuations have caused many changes in our environment. Floods are commonplace.

At the height of the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago the sea level was 394 feet (120 meters) lower that it is today. Ancient humankind, just like today… typically built their society near the sea. All of these outposts at the dawn of humanity where flooded as the ice melted. As the Glaciers receded, the sea rose 394 feet and destroyed everything in its path.

Thanks to science, we have a new Revelation.

We live in a time of great crisis, confronted the challenge of the ecological consequences of our own doing. The consensus is overwhelming: human activity is triggering environmental breakdown on a planetary scale.

Climate change is happening at an exponential rate, and threatens to cause the rise of sea level this century of at least 1 meter (3 feet). Not only sea levels will rise but the balance of life as we know is changing. We can already see it now: extreme earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, drought, flooding.

Koyaanisqatsi. Our Life is out of Balance.


Just like in the time of Noah, our naysayers heckle and reject the message. They are motivated by their own greed and self interests.

It is our collective responsibility to preserve humanity from this imminent disaster.

Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom, and leadership. We must listen to their silence. We must be their voice, too, and act on their behalf.

Instead of an economy that emphasizes profit and requires perpetual growth to avoid collapse, we need to move together towards an economy that provides a satisfactory standard of living for everyone while allowing us to develop our full potential in harmony with the biosphere that sustains and nurtures all beings, including future generations."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


Friday, September 2, 2011

A Letter From a 16 year old Oslo Survivor

Dear Anders Behring Breivik,

A lot of the friends I met at Utoya are dead and you are the perpetrator. You are the man who, by coincidence, didn’t kill me. I was lucky.

You might think that you have won. You might think that you have ruined something for the Labour Party and for people around the world who stand for a multicultural society by killing my friends and fellow party members.

Know that you have failed.

You haven’t only made the world stand together, you have set our souls on fire and should know we’ve never stood together as we do now. You talk about yourself as a hero, a knight. You are no hero. But you have created heroes. On Utoya that warm day in July, you created some of the greatest heroes the world has seen, you unified people from all over the world. Black and white, man and woman, red and blue, Christians and Muslims.

You made your victims martyrs, immortals, and you have shown the world that when one person can show as much hatred as you have done, imagine how much love we can show when we stand together? People who I thought hated me have given me hugs on the street, people I haven’t been in contact with for years have written 300 to 400 words about how much it means to them that I survived. What can you say about that? Have you broken anything? You have united us.

You have killed my friends, but you haven’t killed our cause, our opinions, our right to express ourselves. Muslim women got hugs of sympathy from random Norwegian women on the street and your goal was to protect Europe from Islam? Your actions worked against its purpose.

You deserve no thanks; your plan failed. A lot of people are angry, you are the most hated person in Norway. I am not angry. I do not fear you. You can’t touch us, we are greater than you. We do not answer evil with evil, as you wanted it. We fight evil with good. And we win.

Ivar Benjamin Østebø, aged 16.


Thanks to Humanity's Team for this blog post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT'S TRUE?



It's been a long time since I posted.  I've been busy thinking about how we can possibly  know what is true and what is not.  And I'm stumped.  One scholar says this, another seemingly equally valid scholar disagrees.  One scientific study may demonstrate one thing, but if a person does further reading, research can usually be found that contradicts the results of the first study...Which one is true?  And how can I, a mere common person without formal scholarly or scientific training, hope to ascertain what is a reliable source among many which seem valid?

The same holds true in Christianity.  There's been a search for the historical Jesus, and many respected scholars have widely differing viewpoints.  Which is true?  There is even a whole field of study (epistemology) that studies how we know what we know, and they don't even seem to know how we can know what we know...

People who study consciousness and the brain maintain that we don't actually perceive the world around us as it really is.  They say, for example, that there is no actual color green, but that light (which has no color) is filtered by our eyes in a certain way that we perceive (with the limited tools at our disposal) as the color green.

Dr. David Eagleman "is a neuroscientist and a New York Times bestselling author. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law at Baylor College of Medicine. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw."  I recently listened to a  Brain Science Podcast interview with Dr. Eagleman which focused on his most recent book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. (As much as I can ascertain, both Dr. Eagleman and Brain Science Podcast are reputable sources :-). Dr. Eagleman shared the following information:

"In the book I spend a lot of time just sort of deconstructing reality piece by piece, and showing that, as we want to go on this journey of exploring what the heck we’re made out of, the first thing to do is to recognize that what you’re seeing out there is not actually reality. You’re not sort of opening your eyes, and voila, there’s the world. Instead, your brain constructs the world. Your brain is trapped in darkness inside of your skull,  and all it ever sees are electrical and chemical signals. So all the colors you see, and so on, that doesn’t really exist; that’s an interpretation by your brain.
"Just take as a quick example the fact that your eyes are always moving around in these rapid darting movements; and if you did that with a handheld video camera, it would look like a drunk person holding it, and the world would look very shaky. But our world doesn’t look very shaky, because all we’re actually doing is seeing an internal model of the world; we’re not seeing what’s out there, we’re seeing just our internal model of it. And that’s why, when you move your eyes around, all you’re doing is updating that model.  And for that matter, when you blink your eyes and there are 80 milliseconds of blackness there, you don’t notice that, either. Because it’s not actually about what’s coming in the eyes; it’s about your internal construction….
 "…[There’s also what’s called the ‘illusion of truth’  - where people think something’s true just because they have heard it before].  You give people statements to rate the truth value of, and then you bring them back a while later and you give them more statements to say whether they’re true or false, and so on. But it turns out that if you repeat some of the statements from the first time to the second time, just because the people have heard them before, whether or not it’s true and whether or not they even marked it as false last time, because they’re hearing it again—unconsciously they know they’ve heard it before—they’re more likely to rate it as true now.
Dr. Eagleman confirms some other authors I have read on our perceptions of reality. I have actually noticed this "illusion of truth" in myself - the tendency to think I know about a subject because I've done some reading about it previously.  (I'm glad to know that's normal - I think!)  But I guess the questions I'm really trying to answer are:  What is the nature of Reality? How can I know what's true?  How can I tell what's real?  And the answer, as near as I can tell, is that we really don't know.  Much of the time, things may not be as they appear to us with the limited tools of perception that we are equipped with.  So how can I, an untrained person, know what's true, or even which source is reliable? Anybody out there have any advice?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I COULD BE WRONG

Lately, I’ve been pondering the direction of the spiritual path.  My own journey is taking me from the fundamental toward the liberal.  And from what I read on the internet, many others seem to be on this same trajectory.  But I’ve encountered a few who seem to be traveling in the opposite direction.  In fact, “Religious fundamentalism has risen to worldwide prominence since the 1970s” (Annual Review), and "in March 2009, TIME magazine ranked the new Calvinist movement as one of the '10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.'"  What to make of these, and other, movements of the Spirit in apparently opposite directions?

When I first began to see from a different perspective, I thought I had been misled.  I had believed lies, I thought, but was now seeing the truth.  Those fundamental beliefs I had previously held were wrong, but now I was on the right track.  Truthfully, the only thing that really happened was I moved into a new place of being judgmental!  Yes, I admitted I’d been wrong.  But, I reasoned, it wasn’t my fault – it was all those lies I’d been taught! NOW, though, I was following the Spirit, and I was RIGHT.  Truth with a capital “T” once again! Meanwhile, of course, some of a more liberal bent across the country and throughout the world had been discovering new-found truth in conservative ideas…

Gradually (and thankfully!), I moved into an understanding of the stages of spiritual growth and that we’re not necessarily right or wrong, but at different places along the path.  From that perspective, I’d like to present a possible explanation for these movements of the Spirit in seemingly opposite directions. 

Growth cannot take place without change, and change is a prerequisite for spiritual growth as well. So, whatever camp we’ve been in, whatever our beliefs have been, there has to be a willingness to change our previous positions before we can progress!  So (and this is a biggie!) we must admit that we’re wrong!  I think this is the toughest thing ever to ask our egos to do - admit we've been wrong, leave that ground of certainty, and strike out into unknown territory.

After error is finally seen and admitted, the next response is usually (like I did) to stake out a new “right” stand, and the process must begin all over again.  It’s very painful to admit error, and I believe that’s one among many of the reasons that the transition between stages can be a excruciating time on the spiritual journey – so much so that they’ve sometimes been termed “dark nights of the soul.”   These are “dark nights” because they’re a period of leaving behind what we’ve known and been sure of to enter into uncertainty (or unknowing, as the author of the Cloud of Unknowing put it).  Hopefully, we emerge from this process with a new humility, a fresh realization that we must hold our truths loosely, and a new-found ability to embrace mystery.

At this point it would seem to me that the greatest asset on the spiritual path is humility – the ability to realize I could be wrong.  Then again…I COULD BE WRONG!

Have you ever discovered that you had been wrong?  Did it lead to growth?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY

I don't have a scientific background, but I am very much interested in the topics of science and spirituality.  I recently watched a program on Global Spirit TV (lots of good programs there, by the way) in which Peter Russell was interviewed on the topic of exploring consciousness.  Intrigued, I followed up by visiting his website (which can be found here) where I found a wealth of informative material.  Today I'd like to share the following video from his website titled "Science and Spirituality." While I don't even begin to have a working knowledge of the topic, I do find it facisinating.  And I believe that science and spirituality are not in opposition, but that both can give us glimpses of how to better relate to Reality.

Fast forward to minute 2:45 if you want to skip the intro.







Do science and spirituality oppose one another? What are your thoughts?

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES


"How do you kill your enemy in a way that puts a stop to violence rather than escalates it?

"One of us is gone, one apparently horrific, terrible, vicious one of us...is gone...I'm regretful for the rest of us who are now left thinking that this is a cause for celebration.  It is not.  It is a cause for sorrow at our continued inablility to realize that there is no such thing as us and them; that whatever we do to cause harm to one will harm us all.

"When we hate, we cause hate.  When we think we have won by vanquishing our enemy, we have lost.  In killing Osama bin Laden, 'they' lose because one of their leaders is gone.  But we lose too, because we have deepened the causes and conditions that lead to more hatred and its consequences."


"...when you do not produce another force of hatred, the opposing forece collapses."  - Chogyam Trungpa

Excerpted from: "Osama bin Laden is Dead One Buddhist's Response" by Susan Piver.  Read the entire post here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RICHARD ROHR: SACRIFICE OF THE FALSE SELF


"The sacrificial instinct is the deep recognition that something always has to die for something bigger to be born.  We started with human sacrifice (Abraham and Isaac), we moved to animal sacrifice (the ritual killing of the Passover lamb described in Exodus 12), and we gradually get closer to what really has to be sacrificed—our own beloved ego—as protected and beloved as a little household lamb!  We will all find endless disguises and excuses to avoid letting go of what really needs to die.  And it is not other humans (firstborn sons of Egyptians), animals (lambs or goats), or even “meat on Friday” that God wants or needs.  It is always our false self that has to be let go, which is going to die anyway.

"By becoming the symbolic Passover Lamb, plus the foot-washing servant in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes the movement to the human and the personal very clear and quite concrete.  It is always “we,” in our youth, in our beauty, in our power and over-protectedness that must be handed over.  Otherwise, we will never grow up, big enough to “eat” of the Mystery of God and Love.  It really is about 'passing over' to the next level of faith and life.  And that never happens without some kind of 'dying to the previous levels'"  (Taken from "Wondrous Encounters for Lent" pp. 134-135 by Richard Rohr).

In my opinion, Richard Rohr has beautifully expressed in the above quotation the often-missed message that the cross of Jesus holds for us today.  As long as the ego is running things, we are always looking for someone to die in our place.  It's what happened to Jesus in those days, and it happens afresh inside of us when we trample underfoot and sacrifice the Christ consciousness by allowing the ego to rule our lives. 



Thursday, April 14, 2011

SCIENCE AND NON-DUALITY

I have been pondering the subject of nonduality for quite some time now.  It's something I know is true, but can't quite seem to wrap my mind around! The following, from the Science and Nonduality Website, has been very helpful:

"Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.

"For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are therefore all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.

"In the last century Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being - consciousness - subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity: fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.

"Science and Nonduality is a journey, an exploration of the nature of awareness, the essence of life from which all arises and subsides.

What is nonduality, anyway?
"There are many shades of meaning to the word nonduality. As an introduction, we might say that nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental oneness.

"Our starting point is the statement “we are all one,” and this is meant not in some abstract sense but at the deepest level of existence. Duality, or separation between the observer and the observed, is an illusion that the Eastern mystics have long recognized and Western science has more recently come to understand through quantum mechanics.

"Dualities are usually seen in terms of opposites: Mind/Matter, Self/Other, Conscious/Unconscious, Illusion/Reality, Quantum/Classical, Wave/Particle, Spiritual/Material, Beginning/End, Male/Female, Living/Dead and Good/Evil. Nonduality is the understanding that identification with common dualisms avoids recognition of a deeper reality.

So how can we better understand nonduality?


"There are two aspects to this question, and at first glance they appear to be mutually exclusive, although they may be considered two representations of a single underlying reality.

"The first aspect is our understanding of external reality, and for this we turn to science. The word science comes from the Latin scientia, which means knowledge. The beauty and usefulness of science is that it seeks to measure and describe reality without personal, religious, or cultural bias. For something to be considered scientifically proven, it has to pass exhaustive scrutiny, and even then is always subject to future revision. Inevitably human biases creep in, but the pursuit of science itself is intrinsically an evolving quest for truth. But then quantum mechanics turned much of this lauded objectivity on its head, as the role of the observer became inseparable from the observed quantum effect. It is as if consciousness itself plays a role in creating reality.  Indeed, the two may be the same thing. As quantum pioneer Niels Bohr once put it: “A physicist is just an atom's way of looking at itself!”

"The second aspect is our inner, personal experience of consciousness, our “awareness of awareness.” We have our senses to perceive the world, but “behind” all perception, memory, identification and thought is simply pure awareness itself.  Eastern mystics have described this undifferentiated consciousness for thousands of years as being the ultimate state of bliss, or nirvana. Seekers have attempted to experience it for themselves through countless rituals and practices, although the state itself can be quite simply described. As Indian advaita teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj said: “The trinity: mind, self and spirit, when looked into, becomes unity.”

"The central challenge to understanding nonduality may be that it exists beyond language, because once it has been named, by definition -- and paradoxically -- a duality has been created. Even the statement “all things are one” creates a distinction between “one” and “not-one”! Hardly any wonder that nonduality has been misunderstood, particularly in the West."

Humm, maybe that's why ancient orthodox Jews would never say the name of God, and

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

Monday, March 21, 2011

RELIGION: INSIDE AND OUT


The following article by Corey W. deVos was posted at Integral Life.  The website contains a wealth of articles, videos, and audios - some for free and some that can be accessed for a $10.00 monthly membership fee.  Good stuff!
 



ex·o·ter·ic
Pronunciation: \ek-sə-ˈter-ik\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin & Greek; Latin exotericus, from Greek exōterikos, literally, external, from exōterō more outside, comparative of exō outside Date: 1660
1 a : suitable to be imparted to the public <the exoteric doctrine>
b : belonging to the outer or less initiate circle
2 : relating to the outside

es·o·ter·ic
Pronunciation: \ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik, -ˈte-rik\
Function: adjective Etymology: Late Latin esotericus, from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of eisō, esō within, from eis into; akin to Greek en in Date: circa 1660
1 a : designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone <a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo>
b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group <esoteric terminology>; broadly : difficult to understand <esoteric subjects>
2 a : limited to a small circle <engaging in esoteric pursuits>

It has often been said that there is a central paradox in the role of religion throughout history: on the one hand, religion has been the single greatest cause of war and suffering. On the other, religion has been the single greatest source of redemption, salvation, and liberation for humanity. How can we possibly make sense of this double-edged dagger? How can we reconcile the very best qualities of religion with the very worst?
 
Any meaningful discussion about religion must take at least two different dimensions of the religious experience into account. First, there is religion in its exoteric or "outer" form, largely consisting of the rituals, beliefs, and dogma of a particular tradition. This is what the majority of people think of when they hear the word "religion", often associating it with old myths, pre-rational thinking, and obsolete ideologies. Whenever you hear Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or any of the other "new atheists" railing against God and religion, it is always this mythic exoteric form that they are attacking.
 
There is another side to religion which, by definition, is very often overlooked: the esoteric or "inner" core that invites us to actually experience divinity for ourselves. This esoteric core is almost entirely composed of vivid (and occasionally enigmatic) descriptions of spiritual devotion, transcendent truths, and timeless realities. But there is so much more than just poetry at the heart of religion—esoteric spirituality represents a very real technology of transformation, offering profoundly enriching practices of meditation and prayer to help us all experience these things for ourselves, rather than just taking it as a matter of faith.
 
Every religion was founded by a mystic who had a direct experience of spiritual reality, whether we are talking about Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Sufism, or any other major spiritual tradition. And every religion has been populated by various saints and sages throughout the years, all of whom have helped to deepen and refine these teachings and practices, as well as re-translate them for new generations.
 
And yet, as prevalent as genuine mysticism is in all these traditions, many people in today's world go their entire lives without ever hearing about these aspects of religious experience. Oftentimes Western spiritual seekers look beyond the religion of their childhood, usually to exotic Eastern traditions like Zen Buddhism or Taoism, because they perceive these traditions as being steeped in the esoteric—not realizing that Eastern spirituality is just as bound to the ritualistic trappings of exoteric religion as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. They often do not even recognize the rich legacy of esoteric spirituality that exists in their own tradition, hiding right in plain sight—simply because we are too close to our own cultural preconceptions, too burnt out on the mythic dogma of our childhood, and too alone in the dark without anyone pointing us in the right direction.
 
In fact, once we have tasted the esoteric waters in another spiritual tradition, we usually intuit that this very same esoteric core is shared by all religions, that it is the cornerstone of spiritual experience for every mystic in history (though expressed very differently from culture to culture). We begin to recognize these timeless teachings in our own native tradition, allowing us to "come home" to the religion of our upbringing with open eyes, open hearts, and open minds. From exoteric to exotic to esoteric—this has been the path for a great many spiritual seekers in the 20th and 21st century.
 
When considering the relationship between the exoteric and esoteric aspects of religious life it is tempting to regard them as being pitted against one another, an antagonistic dyad of gnosis vs. faith, of experience vs. dogma, of mysticism vs. myth. But it is important to remember that both these dimensions of religion are crucial—after all, it is the institutional aspects of religion that make it possible to contain, codify, and perpetuate the esoteric teachings over multiple generations. If we did not have our exoteric forms of religion, the innermost contemplative teachings would have been lost hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.
 
The central problem of religion today is not the unavailability of esoteric teachings—they are just as accessible today as they have ever been, perhaps even more so—but that our exoteric religions have become damaged, painfully decoupled from history's ceaseless march toward more novelty and more complexity. Our religions are fully capable of keeping pace with our progress, growing from magic forms of religion to mythic forms, rational forms, pluralistic forms, integral forms, and beyond. And the esoteric teachings and practices are alive in all these forms, though will certainly be interpreted very differently at each level (e.g. Christ the magician, Christ the Lord of the Chosen, Christ the humanist, Christ the Lover of all sentient beings, and Christ the living embodiment of the intersection of humanity and divinity within each of us).
 
But for a number of historic reasons, the majority of today's religions have remained anchored in magic and myth, and have been largely unable to blossom into their rational and post-rational forms. Because of this failure to grow and adapt, a great disservice has been done to the modern and post-modern God, and a great many people have dug their trenches in a perceived war between science and religion—trenches that few will ever be able to climb out of. We are now caught in the crossfire between two very different kinds of fundamentalism—religious evangelicals vs. scientific materialists—in which the former believes all facts to be an affront to faith, while the latter believes that all conceptions of the spiritual life are just childish vestiges of a long-dead God. But it is an imaginary war, a frantic struggle of straw man vs. straw man, neither side willing (or capable) of any sort of integrative compromise.
 
As a result, too many people on the religious side are forced to suppress their own growth or compartmentalize their beliefs (otherwise rational people unable to apply the same reason they use in the rest of their lives to their religious convictions), while those on the scientific side tend to demonize spirituality altogether—throwing all of our accumulated conceptions of transcendence, liberation, and redemption out with the bathwater of myth and magic. The goal is not to supplant exoteric religion with the esoteric, but to create healthy exoteric institutions that can continue to carry and transmit the esoteric teachings into the modern and postmodern worlds.
 
These are arguably the two most important tasks of religion in the 21st-century. The first is to fix our broken religious institutions, creating genuine rational approaches to spirituality in all of our major traditions that can actually meet people where they are while nurturing their growth through magical, mythical, rational, postmodern, and integral stages of development. This alone would help relieve the incredible cultural tension that currently exists between religion and science, closing the massive gap that between faith and reason. The second is to revive the esoteric teachings at the core of every religion for an entirely new generation of spiritual seekers, practitioners, and church-goers. By bringing the transformative practices of contemplation, meditation, and prayer to the forefront of worship, we can begin tapping into a very real technology of liberation, offering an alternative to blind faith by allowing people to experience for themselves the effulgent divinity of the world, of our relationships, and of our own blessed hearts and minds.