Praying for the Rogues

For those who pray, it is common to pray for our own needs and desires, as well as in gratitude for all we have in our lives. It is also common to pray for those we know, family, friends, and other community members in need. And finally, people often pray for strangers whom they see suffering, the victims of abuse, natural disasters, accidents, wars, torture and hate. This is good and as it should be. However there is one group who need prayer as the much as the rest of us and, in some ways, perhaps more. These are those I am calling the Rogues.

Who are the Rogues? These include all those who are doing harm, Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, the demagogues, those who pollute our planet, terrorist leaders and actors, as well as the man who beats his wife, the neighbor who stole your roses and the kid playing atrocious music late into the night. These are not only the thoughtless ones who may be so self-focused they either ignore or do not see the harm they do others. I also include those who intentionally do harm, whatever the reason or excuse. ‘It was done to me, so I have the right to do it to you.’ ‘I enjoy watching you squirm in fear.’ ‘I wanted it.’ ‘They are infidels who have brought it upon themselves.’

The first two principles in Unity are 1) God is good; and 2) We are made in the image of God so are also good at core. As expressions of God, all people are good at core. Unity practices affirmative prayer, where we affirm the highest good in everyone in every situation.

This is important regarding the Rogues for several reasons. Praying for the Rogues has the potential to reawaken them to awareness of their buried, innate goodness. With light, the darkness is broken. Seeing and knowing creates the possibility for anyone to change their ways. This would be a far preferable way to stop the violence and harm done than wars.

Yet praying for them is also important for us personally. Rather than the usual way of viewing the Rogues as horrible, non-human monsters, it is important to recognize them as humans who have gone down a really nasty path. They most definitely need to be stopped. Yet we lose something essential if we do not recognize in them our own potential for evil. One of the things I most dislike about the Rogues is they remind me that there, but for the choices I make and the grace of God, go I. Who has never reacted with greed, fear, rage or hate, even if on a much smaller scale?

If we pretend that we don’t have fearful and destructive thoughts and feelings, we leave ourselves open to acting on them in less than conscious ways. Ultimately by being aware of such feelings, we can choose not to act on them. We can discourage them from even arising. And when they do arise, we can choose not to feed them, no matter how self-righteous we may feel at the time.

When a copy of the Koran was torn and flushed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison years ago, rioters across the world in Indonesia killed 5 Catholic nuns. The soldiers showed disrespect to a copy of others’ holy book. In self-righteous rage the rioters did far more harm to their religion and their own souls than destroying any number of copies of a book could.

So I am working to include the Rogues in my prayers, especially those who arise anger and loathing in me. This in no way limits my condemnation of their behaviors. Instead it helps me to be more compassionate to my own and others’ transgressions, and less likely to respond in similarly destructive ways.

Posted in Affirmation, Compassion, Consciousness, Emotions, God, Prayer, Religion, Spirituality, suffering, Uncategorized, Unity | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Fullness of Time

“I always have enough time.” Right? Or maybe not so much? I find this awkward enough to say let alone believe. Yet lately, when I catch myself saying just the opposite, I remind myself to affirm that I have enough time. It shifts my perspective and state of mind.

I think of time in terms of objective—measurable, quantifiable, and subjective—how it feels to me. Abstract questions of whether or not time is real, a mental construct or a fundamental aspect of nature (the fourth dimension), aren’t as interesting to me as how my thinking about it affects me.

When I realize I am running late to get together with a friend, my first thought is usually “Oh s**t!” I feel bad about breaking a commitment. I feel shame.

In this instance clock (objective) time shows me when I am, and provides the opportunity to choose how to deal with it. I could run or drive trying get there faster. I could call ahead to let the person know I am running late, with or without excuses. Yet when I have been late, it is rarely a crisis. Sometimes I even arrive before the other.

What about subjective time? That same objective ten minutes driving to my date can seem to drag out forever when I am anxiously stuck behind a slow moving car. Interestingly when I am excitedly anticipating something positive—getting together with a friend—time waiting can also feel extra long.

Then when we are together and are enjoying sharing, time seems to fly by. On the other hand, if it were to become boring, time would drag once again.

With subjective time it is easy to recognize that we perceive time according to how we are thinking and feeling. With objective time, we get to see the “facts.” I may not like paying bills on time, but knowing when they are due, gives me the freedom to pay or accept the consequences.

There is also a way of relating to time that has elements of both objectivity and subjectivity, and can be helpful especially when things are looking bleak. The assignment from a class with Rev. Kelly Isola at Unity Village last fall, was to read a passage from Charles Fillmore, Unity’s co-founder, and to watch a YouTube video of a Joanna Macy* (https://tinyurl.com/zty8m7w) talk, regarding the phrase “The Fullness of Time.” We were to write an essay about what we understood from it.

“The fullness of time,” is a biblical phrase. Fillmore writes briefly how it applies to mental healing. Macy’s talk, applies it to the sometimes-overwhelming human and environmental issues we face today. While we only actually live in the present moment, developing a longer, historical view of events adds insights, perspective and hope that can be hard to come by in that moment.

The more I look at history, the more I remember different periods in my own lifetime, the more I realize that the crises of today usually seem far greater in the moment than over time. I have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as President Kennedy’s assassination to mention two, this-could-be-the-end-of-the-world events.

Macy related a dream which for me brought together both the fears of humanity’s self destruction, as well as the hope for a better outcome despite it all. In her dream she was struggling to communicate lessons from humanity’s self-destructive experiences on Earth, with groups of beings living on different planets. The first, who lived on Mercury, were hard to reach because they lived frenetically fast lives. The second group, who lived on Saturn, lived and communicated at a slow, glacial pace. She despaired that she would not have the time to reach such slow beings on Saturn, but determined to make the effort even if it took the rest of her life.

To visit Saturn she had to go into this massive, very deep subway system. Feeling fright and despair as she descended, she overheard a father talking to his son very calmly about how slow and long lived the Saturn people were. Somehow his calmness also reassured her. She then looked around and realized she was not alone. There were thousands of others coming into this subway, all of them striving like her, despite seemingly insurmountable odds to do what was right.

Her dream showed hope and support, without denying what has gone wrong. It reminded me that I am but one expression of a larger whole. Seeing so, I feel less discouraged. A Zen teacher, Suzuki Roshi once put it as “Hurry slowly.” I act when I know it is time for me to do so, regardless of what might come. Despite fear or seemingly insurmountable odds, I can act even if I may never know the outcome.

People have done so through out the ages. The builders of European cathedrals that would take over a hundred years to complete provide a powerful example. They proceeded knowing they would not live to seem them finished.

By ignoring history and forgetting the wisdom of the past, we have limited our perspectives. Objective time marches on regardless of what we think we want. With history time can feel less oppressive. It provides us a broader perspective through which we can find hope and courage despite any current fears and set backs.

Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Buddhism, Consciousness, Emotions, Spirituality, TIme, Uncategorized, Unity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Gifts in Everyday Adversity

With the start of the year, I am focusing once again, on a practice I find difficult to maintain. The practice is reminding myself that things (and people) which anger, distract, upset, or confuse me can also be used as gifts that challenge me to be more conscious, compassionate and centered in God as Love. By God I mean the positive living Presence within and without each being. By Love I mean that caring, joining, joyous aliveness we fundamentally crave, and I believe are here to express.


Life provides me many more opportunities to receive such gifts than I would consciously choose. Someone cuts me off in traffic, oh joy, another opportunity! I drop the food I was trying to put in my mouth, on my new clean clothes, another celebration? Someone screaming obscenities on the street sees me notice him and yells “Faggot,” more practice. Reading the fear and hate filled messages from most of the Republican presidential candidates is another level of challenge.


I find it helpful to recall the following saying: “The problem in wrestling with a pig is that while you both get muddy, only the pig enjoys it.” When another is angry, disrespectful or even intentionally baiting me, how can I respond without “wrestling with the pig?”


This is where the struggle to live spiritual values becomes immediate. I can choose not to be drawn into the mud, no matter how tempting it may feel. A righteous rage is so tempting. I get to feel powerfully angry while feeling in the right. Yet when I go with it, I become other than I want to be. It is like a sugar high; charged up at first, drained and regretful later. This is not to suggest that one deny feelings of hurt, fear, anger or even rage. It is making the choice not to be controlled or run by them.


Sometimes people get confused thinking that if I am an optimist or believes that God is good, then feeling angry or having vengeful thoughts means I am a failure or a hypocrite. Being human each of us is open to the full range of possible feelings, thoughts and reactions. Pretending they don’t existence doesn’t help; actually it can make things worse. Feelings denied to conscious awareness have a tendency to emerge less consciously when an opening arises, too often at the worst possible moments.


Living a spiritual life for me means choosing over and over again to take the high road, to react with honesty and compassion. It does not mean I will always succeed, but it does mean I can and do renew my intention to be the best expression of divine love that it is in me to be. Remembering to seek the good in not-so-good experiences, the gifts from set backs and tragedies, is an important way to reinforce living a more compassionate, spiritual, joyous and grateful life.

Posted in Attitude, Compassion, Consciousness, Emotions, God, Gratitude, joy, Love, Relating, Spirituality, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let Your Light Shine.

I learned as a young child to muffle the light that would shine from me. I was never actually told, ‘don’t go there.’ It was more the opposite. Yet the very praise at how open, caring and expressive I was, since it was unlike the people praising me, suggested something wrong. Around the same time, I also remember not feeling or expressing myself with the drama that others did. If I did not like tomatoes—I didn’t—it would not occur to me to say I hated them. Others would. Wanting connection, discomforted sensing my differences, I began modifying what I expressed. In doing so, I also modified what I felt and experienced.

Letting one’s light shine is not the same thing as, to put it crudely, ‘blowing it out the other end.’ The inner light is an expression for the Divine (or if you prefer the good will) within you, the knowledge within of love and joy and wholeness. Fears, limitations, judgments of separation and otherness are also part of our experiences but are not expressions of light. For so many of us, expressing the details of our disappointments, suffering and tragedies comes easier than the joys, particularly those of every day life. What we express becomes how we experience our lives.

The phrase, “let your light shine,” comes from Matthew 5:16. ”In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

While I question the “in Heaven” aspect, I see the value of allowing others to see the divine within me despite the discomfort I sometimes still feel doing so. When another acknowledges and expresses their gratitude for the goodness in their lives, I get a glimpse of the Divine. It reminds me that the same Good is also central in me, and my life.

The phrase ‘letting your light’ shine apparently comes from biblical times when several families would share the same dwelling. Those with enough money would have lamps and the oil to light them at night, while the poorer families did not. Most would uncover their lanterns so their neighbors could also see by it, but some would cover it up, so only they could benefit from its light. Letting one’s light shine cost no more yet provided the warmth of community to all.

Aggressive missionaries have abused this concept to push their belief system on others. Remembering this serves as a reminder to me to balance my desire to share the inner knowledge and awareness that brings me such comfort and joy, with being respectful for others own spiritual journeys.

Posted in joy, Respect, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

ATTRACTION, REPULSION, OR NEUTRAL: BEING MORE CONSCIOUS

ATTRACTION, REPULSION, OR NEUTRAL

A meditation technique suggests that when thoughts or fantasies arise, rather than push them away or get lost in them, simply notice if they are “attractive, repulsive or neutral.” Initially this creates some space from them. As I become aware of my judgments I am back in the moment rather than under the spell the mind created. Back in here-and-now, I can re-focus on the breath I follow in meditation.

While this instruction helps in meditation, it can also be of service during every day life. We judge far more often than we are aware. Just as meditation is a practice of being present in life, becoming conscious of our judgments during daily activity and relating with others can help us differentiate between what actually is, and what might be tinted by our fears or desires.

Almost four decades ago (gulp!), in my late twenties, I co-led a Gay men’s support group at The Pacific Center in Berkeley with a man I will call Rob. Rob had training in religion rather than psychotherapy. After the group ended, he became good friends with a group member named Odell, who also became a friend of mine. I lost contact with Rob, while Odell kept up contact with each of us.

A few years later, Odell related to me that Rob was badly shaken up after having been mugged by a Black man a few months earlier. After that, the few times Odell saw Rob, Rob acted distant and uncomfortable with him. For you see, Odell is also Black. Perhaps if Rob had been better able to step back and observe his own reactions, he would have remembered Odell for who he was, not any superficial resemblance to his mugger. Instead he withdrew from a good friendship, a sad loss for everyone.

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t judge. Judging and knowing our own preferences and needs is valuable. Yet it is also important not to allow our judgments, especially pre-judgments, to interfere with our ability to actually perceive what or who is in front of us now. Rob’s fears controlled his behaviors. Ours will also unless we become aware of them and choose not to let them.

This is really about being more conscious, especially when our emotions are stirred. Checking if we are feeling “attraction, repulsion or neutral,” can help us be more aware in our everyday encounters. With awareness we can choose to react in terms of our values rather than just our impulses, fears or desires. After all, what does living a spiritual life mean if not making efforts to live according to your values?

Just because I don’t like something about a person I have just met, does not mean I have to push them away. Indeed sometimes becoming curious about my reaction can help me know more about myself. Maybe I am picking up something about the other that is dangerous. Or maybe, like Rob, I am reacting to a past danger rather than the real person in front of me.

Ultimately, I would rather seek to see the divine or at least the good in each person I meet. While acknowledging that some folks will make this quite a challenge, I think of the intention and effort as part of living a more spiritual life. Or if you don’t like the term spiritual, it is part of how we can live a happier, fuller, more joyous lives.

Posted in Being Present, Consciousness, Emotions, joy, Meditation, Relating, Spirituality, Truth | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Again

“Dear God, I want a hobby horse (or a doll) for my birthday.” (Today it might be Play Station 4.) A child’s prayer, yes. As young children, our understanding of God was simple. “Our Father who art in Heaven.” This holy, powerful old man way above us, who could reward or punish us, although we were generally safe if we listened to our parents. Unfortunately too many expressions of religion have maintained a similar image of God. Instead of obeying parents, as adults we are supposed to obey the priestly class and their rigid reading and interpretation of the holy books. Apparently designed more to maintain control than develop a closer relationship with God, it is no surprise that so many people have drifted away from religion.

My understanding of God has changed over time. For many years I found Buddhism, meditation, and the written teachings about them particularly those of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Thich Nhat Hanh and Suzuki Roshi, my source of spiritual understanding. God, if such existed, was at best irrelevant in a world that seemed intent on learning new and more destructive ways to increase suffering. One strived to live morally, and by that I mean with compassion, generosity, and honesty, because this is a better way to be, not in hope of some imaginary after life reward.

While this remains a core of my understanding of how to be and act, God has returned for me over the last few years. I have written about some of this already. Exploring becoming a prayer chaplain at Unity opened my eyes to a different and more personal understanding of God as the inner connection with the Divine. Yet even in Unity, I suspect many do not really believe in God. They engage in understanding and practicing the principals Unity expounds upon such as affirmations and denials, without any need or recognition of God.

Nevertheless the first of the five basic Unity principles is that God is all good, active and present everywhere. Initially I suspended belief in this statement since I found the other teachings and practice so useful. I understand that people mean different things by God. Yet an all good, powerful, knowing and present deity is hard to reconcile with all the suffering in the world much of it created in his name.

The prayer chaplaincy came to me when I was feeling drawn to get more involved with Unity, but could not regularly attend nightly classes. I heard about an orientation meeting for those interested in becoming prayer chaplains. Realizing I didn’t really know what prayer was, I figured at least I could learn what Unity meant by prayer.

I remember driving over that evening, having a conversation of sorts in my head. “What am I doing? This seems absurd!” Yet there was this inner response that laughed away my anxiety and confusion. “But I could be doing something better with my time.” More laughter knowing I had nothing to do that night. “Well, what do I have to lose? It is only one evening.” Then I got there, and wow was I surprised.

What surprised me was that what they were calling prayer was something I had done on and off my entire life, never thinking of it as prayer. Even the laughter I felt in reaction to my objections in coming to the meeting, was a place within where I knew with a Higher sense what was right in the moment. For me, that inner laughter is an expression of God; it is the place from which at times I ‘just know.’

So back to the question, why God? If Unity principles are useful, positive ways of being in the world, why add God to the mix? Just follow the principles as you grow to understand them. Adding a God who is supposed to be all powerful, knowledgeable, present and compassionate requires a real stretch in belief, given all the suffering and injustice in the world. Rationalizations such as “God knows more than we can,” or “suffering is for our deeper growth or to test us” does not cut it particularly in the extreme situations. Young children being harmed, mass murders and even natural catastrophes as a damn test? Doesn’t sound compassionate to me.

The only answer I really have at this point is that It just is so. There is a Presence I have become more aware of over my lifetime. I continue studying this seeking more clarity. Yet I doubt that logic is enough to find God. Faith involves learning by a different means, paying attention to what is and is emerging within, not without questioning but with a willingness to trust. As I trust It more, my faith deepens. Not blind faith. As Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche once said, “Blind faith is simply blind.” Even if it is not based on ordinary logic, faith still needs to be based on knowing, not just closing your eyes and ears and jumping off into a void.

So I acknowledge this place of Knowing. Is it God, a higher expression of myself, or just some hormonal rush? Guess what; none of these choices exclude the others. Indeed Unity would unify these options. God is both our highest self and something that is more than merely us. And how we react in the body to Knowing is a bodily function. Not every chill is a sense of the Divine; sometimes it is just cold out!

Finally, at least for me now or this will never get published, I want to emphasize the need to Question what this is. It is only through questioning not just others’ beliefs but my own that I have deepen and enriched my understanding of existence. If believing in God (or a God head) enhances your life, go there. If not, don’t. Just keep your mind open. Life is change, sometimes subtle sometimes not. As I get older, I do understand more things. But what I understand most, is how limited my understanding is, as well as that of others who all too often assert otherwise.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

FAITH

When I write, what I end up with is usually quite different from where I started. After starting a couple of different themes, I decided this blog entry would be on my understanding of faith. Initially I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of Unity’s principles. Yet since I write from my own experiences, speaking of how Unity’s principles have formed my experience and understanding of faith makes good sense. I hope this exploration will be useful even if the faith traditions you are exploring are different.

For many years the Buddhist concept of Buddha Nature rather than the Western concepts of God formed the center of my belief system. Buddha Nature spoke of something innocent inherent in all beings that connect them, something beyond and deeper than personality. This something is always present, available within each person rather than some external deity telling us what to do or not to do, rewarding or punishing people according to rules or whims.

Yet I have had experiences and feelings that Buddha Nature did not adequately explain or develop for me. Attending Unity and developing conscious prayer awakened in me that which I think of as reclaiming God. What I mean by this is a conscious awareness of God or Spirit or by whatever name, which has always been with me. This added something active to my understanding of Buddha Nature.

Faith for me is my growing awareness and acceptance of the Divine as an active force in my life and world, something that is both of me and more than me. Since currently my faith is developing from exploring Unity, I have framed this about the five principles central to Unity.*

When a set of beliefs or approach to life attracts my attention, I view it like trying on a new pair of shoes. First I try it on. How does it fit? Does it wear well or chafe? How much does it cost? With my attraction to the welcoming messages from Unity, I have been ‘trying on’ their principles and so far, liking the fit.

The first two principles are my main focus here, as these seem to me the foundation of faith in Unity.

1) God is all good and active in everything, everywhere.

         2) I am naturally good because God’s Divinity is in me and in everyone.

The first principle is both hardest to accept, and most profound in it’s acceptance. Given wars, poverty, greed and cruelty in our lives and the world we live in, how could there be an all powerful, all present, active God that is also good? I suspect accepting this will be an ongoing struggle. Glib answers such as, ‘well God knows better than we can’ doesn’t seem very useful or meaningful to me.

The basis for my developing acceptance of the first principle of God the Good is because of how it ‘fits.’ Not that it fits every situation in the world, but how it works in my life. If God is Good, then in seeking God I choose to seek good everywhere. This can be quite challenging when things are not ‘going well,’ when I get cut off in traffic, when people are hurting and/or acting in ways that are negligent, destructive or abusive. Yet these very situations are often most rewarding when I do find the good.

By not expecting to suddenly find an insight that will make all the suffering and abuse in the world make sense or be transformed, I can better focus on my life and my interactions. While eventually I may examine larger, world sized issues, for now I need to focus on what is real in my own experiences and that of those people in my life. After all, the rest is basically reportage, things we rely on others to communicate with all the inherent distortions that invites.

The second Unity principle, that we are good because Divinity is in each of us, is easier for me to accept. I have learned to often see beyond peoples’ destructive thoughts and actions as long as my own feelings aren’t too strongly triggered. When I get to know someone, I can recognize their underlying needs and suffering, as well as their capacity for love despite all the evidence otherwise. Reaching people past their fears and defenses is often difficult, although it helps when I can acknowledge my own, similar fears and defenses.

The last three principles* provide guidance to growing and living these truths:

3) I create my experiences by what I choose to think, feel and believe.

4) Through affirmative prayer and meditation, I connect with God and bring out the good in my life.

         5) I do and give the best by living the Truth I know.

The more I look for the good, the more I find it. Intellectually, emotionally and even visually, when we look for something we tend to filter amongst the input to find what we are looking for. The 3rd principle of Unity, that my thoughts, feelings and actions create my experience is this and more than just recognizing what might go right.

In the past, I have described this as ‘the universe cooperating with us.’ In addition to opening my eyes to see what is good or right, in some mystical or at least more than logically explainable way, more things start going right. So far the effect in my life is that I am happier, enjoy events and people more, and find myself less fearful and judgmental.

Driving to Unity (and elsewhere lately), it is not unusual for me to feel anxious if I leave a little late or run into traffic. Remembering principle, I choose to relax and release my anxiety. I remind myself that good is coming my way. And guess what. Most of the time the traffic opens up and so does a parking place. (Driving in San Francisco, this can really feel like a miracle!) Yet even when I am late, there is still good for me.

So I return to faith. The more I try it on, the more I seek Good in situations, the better life fits. I also work a lot with the 4th principle, affirmative prayer—something I have embraced from Unity—and meditation, which I have practiced for 40 years

While some use the terms prayer and meditation interchangeably, for me they are somewhat different. Meditation involves letting go of ego, of the mind’s expectations and activity, allowing one to be in the silence or, in the sense of ego-self, not to be. Prayer is more active in asking for, clarifying and envisioning what I seek. Meditation creates the openness, receptiveness. Prayer is active in the choice of being one with and attending to that inner, greater-than ego-based voice and sense of direction.

The more I work with this unity of receptivity and action, meditation and prayer, the more I understand and practice living these principles. This is the 5th principle, practicing or living from the principles. Faith is the ongoing choice to live ones beliefs, a process that I find deepens my understanding of things, as well as my joy in being alive.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that real Faith also involves some doubt. Questioning can help develop and keep faith clean and strong. I have doubts often enough. Right now I feel doubt about sharing what I have written. Who am I to expound on principles I have just begun to explore? What I write is based on my own experiences, not just blind assertion or some intellectual game. Following an inner need to put forth what I have to share, I have faith that good will come from it.

Namaste

The five principles while essentially the same, are expressed with slightly different words at different Unity sites on the web and elsewhere. This one comes from a handout at our local Unity in San Francisco

Posted in God, joy, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Spirituality, Truth, Unity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments