Being the Light in the Dark

Moon 2006

At this time of year in the northern hemisphere we have the longest, often coldest nights, the turning point before moving toward the greater light, warmth and the new growth of spring. Traditional holidays, celebrated as Christmas, Chanukah, Winter Solstice and others, have helped people create their own light at this time of darkness. They can serve to reaffirm our commitment to, or faith in, living by the light of our highest good.

This seasonal darkness currently seems matched spiritually and culturally in the United States. It is normal to feel anger and despair when we see those expressing hate, greed and inhumanity ascend to the highest offices of power not only in the US but across the world. I have wondered how is it that humanity so often allows some of the most dysfunctional amongst us—the least spiritually, psychologically and morally developed—be in charge? By the time they are finally removed, the rest of us have to figure out how best to cope and heal from all the inevitably negative consequences of their actions.

The traditions of the past, while often distorted by commercialism and superficiality, still hold some timeless answers. Humans have survived through many periods of darkness, wars, persecutions, holocausts, pandemics, and natural disasters. To do so, we have learned to not only ‘light a candle in the dark,’ but more importantly to become the light in the dark.

By “being the light in the dark” I mean holding to the highest good when it is hardest. I remember an image likely from a movie, of bearded Hassidim singing and dancing as they went into the Nazi gas chambers. Could I knowingly go to my death singing praises of God as they did? Could I find and express joy in the most despairing times of life?

While I have often failed to do so, I do know this is possible. It helps to have others to remind me of the Light that is who each of us are at core. It helps to decide, to choose to be and act from this core. And it helps to practice this every day, to learn to see each set back, harsh criticism, or attack as an opportunity to deepen my faith in God, Good, Love and Life.

For me this struggle is what it means to live a spiritual life. Not the specific rituals, songs, ways of living, but the ongoing choice to be the light I seek, to be the love I seek. Choosing over and over again to be the hands and voice of God/ good/ light is what makes for a spiritual or even moral life.

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Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Emotions, God, joy, light, Love, Religion, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Super Powers

From a young age, I enjoyed reading science fiction and fantasy books. I loved the people (or creatures) in exotic locations, doing fantastic things. While having advanced technology was interesting, it was the special characters, sometimes with special talents, that drew me. I was intrigued imagining being able to read minds, or fly, or talk with animals, or heal with your mind or touch, or other similarly super powers. These powers, personal and technological, enabled them to explore fantastic places and survive challenges that might defeat others. Yet they were still ordinary beings with personal fears and flaws.

Yet even if a character had special abilities, that didn’t mean they could do anything, anytime. As with our more common abilities there are limits. Indeed the best stories have people succeeding with a combination of unusual abilities and what we see as more ordinary skills. I can speak, but talk to me in Finnish and I will be lost. I can ride a bike, but without a lot of practice forget about any multi-mile trips. Abilities ordinary and extraordinary have rules or principles by which they can be expressed.

For many years I saw my interest in fantasy stories as escape or relief from ordinary life and it’s challenges. I enjoyed those in exotic settings and with exotic powers, overcome seemingly overwhelming odds or events. I felt vicarious empowerment and aliveness which only indirectly touched upon my own struggles. Yet what if exotic powers are only exotic because we are unused to using or seeing them? What if we all actually do have special powers?

Actually, of course, we do. Some of them are so familiar we take them for granted. Via technology, we have many, from automated travel including flying through the air, to speaking with and seeing folks on the other side of the world, and through conquering diseases that were fatal not that long ago. Yet our technology, as amazing as it is, is actually the product of people pursuing their dreams (super visions) and developing what on one level are ordinary powers—of creativity, imagination, observation—and making them super by applying them in new, interesting and useful ways.

Often people express this through work. The architect who builds a strong, functional and beautiful building, the surgeon who saves lives by cutting into living beings and healing them, the bus driver who greets everyone who comes aboard, drives through difficult streets to get people to their destinations safely, the teacher who takes unruly children and inspires them to learn to be more than they were aware they could be.

It is not only through work. The accountant by day, poet by night, or the person who greets everyone coming into Church on Sundays making them feel welcome and special, is him/ herself special. So is the volunteer who comes into a hospice, hospital or senior residence and helps the patients/residents feel alive and valued. There are so many different ways each of us can make a real difference in peoples’ lives every day. Remember super powers by their nature do not so much defy the laws of nature but extend them in different ways.

Ultimately our choices differentiate whether what we do is truly super, something that improves lives and aliveness, or just another, limited, self-serving action. Yes, we need to provide for ourselves. Yet it is when our actions come from seeking the highest good for all that our abilities, our powers become truly super.

Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Compassion, Gratitude, Passion, power, Relating, service, Uncategorized, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silence

I have meditated since the early 1970’s. So when I went to sit the other day and I went truly into the Silence, I was surprised to realize that lately there have only been brief moments of it.

The meditation style I mostly do is Buddhist meditation that is all about silence. There are a variety of useful teachings which help one let go of thoughts, feelings, and other reactions in order to simply be present.

Trance states, contemplation, spacing out, getting lost in fantasies, thoughts and feelings are merely things that come up, happen. The practice involves noticing but not attending to these things. This involves not so much pushing them away as not engaging them.

Over the years there have often been moments, and sometimes more than moments, when there was true silence. There is ease, little or no sense of myself or others, awareness of the present and the deep, replenishing stillness. Recently in meditation, while my mind would go through things and release them—the analogy I use is taking a psychic poop—the moments of true Silence have been fleeting.

Taking longer times apart to practice meditation can be helpful, yet perhaps ironically the present is always here. It is possible to fully release the distracting mental activity at any moment. This is not only in formal mediation practice. It is more about resting in peace rather than other, more agitated mental states, anywhere, anytime.

After that morning re-awakening, having lunch with Allen, I was able to let him talk without having to engage. I not only ate more slowly—I have always been a relatively fast eater—but was satisfied with less. Allen asked if I was OK. I was, am more than OK.

I have been blessed with so many tools to enable me to let go and relax in the Silence, yet how often do I use them? Mind engagement and entertainment is habituated as well as enticing. When I remember and choose the Silence in my life, I get less caught in life’s dramas. I feel peaceful and get things done with less stress and more appreciation.

Learning to be truly still is a gift that can take some time to fully appreciate. I hope in sharing this reminder with which I was blessed will be of use to you as well.

 

Posted in Affirmation, Attitude, Being Present, Buddhism, Gratitude, silence, Spirituality, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

God Once Again (And not likely not the last)

There is one God the good, all power—omnipotence, everywhere present—omnipresence, and all knowing—omniscience. This is the first of the five basic principles of Unity, from which the others flow. And this declaration is also the basic apparent contradiction that makes most people, believers and not, doubt. For if all is God, and God is Good, we have to stretch our reasoning into variations of a pretzel to explain all the pain, suffering and evil in the world.

I cannot enumerate let alone explain all the rationalizations that folks come up with to work around this issue. The main one usually comes down to there being a force for Bad that somehow exists in opposition to the Good, even though the Good still is all powerful. Frankly, while I am glad that some find comfort in such reasoning, I do not.

Unity Metaphysics, as I understand it, primarily views bible passages as metaphors for states of mind and spirit. Whether or not people believe in the Bible (the Christian Bible inclusive of the Hebrew Bible) in a more literal sense, the Fillmores (Unity’s founders) used the passages to better understand how we develop our awareness of God and Being and Self, a more practical approach to spirituality. Their teaching and healing practices incorporated much from there.

So how do I believe in God if I see the reasoning for God as mostly rationalization? I do so because I have sensed God all my life, at various times, in various ways that have little to do with either mental reasoning or physical perceptions. In practicing Buddhist meditation, I was able to sidestep the question of God while learning to experience life more directly. In exploring Unity and it’s teachings, I finally was able to accept God as I experienced It, rather than through others definitions.

Religious writings and teachings describe God and It’s teachings based on other people’s understanding carried forward over centuries. The writers built upon what was written before. To see and call such works the literal word of God is idolatry at core. Good teachers and teachings can help you find God, but you yourself have to experience the Divine or at best, all you have is an idea of God.

As for the conflict between God being all Good, and the suffering and evil in the world, that is the core ongoing struggle. We all need to own both the goodness and badness or confusion within us if we are to have a chance in understanding the bigger picture. Societies also need to do so if we are ever to have real peace.

I get glimpses of a deeper answer at times. It reassures me. The more I choose to find ways to turn myself and others away from acting on fear and doing harm—regardless of reasoning—the more God becomes real in my life. Choosing to be compassionate and loving, respecting others’ struggles while not doing harm, nor abetting harm done by others is the best I have come up with so far.

Posted in Buddhism, Compassion, God, Love, Religion, Spirituality, suffering, Uncategorized, Unity | 4 Comments

LIVING MY VALUES

Hate and fear cannot be stopped by more hate and fear. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Jesus (that Jew from Nazareth) preached this message. We lose before we start when we forget it. Yet following this teaching is not so easy.

The current US Presidential election has brought out so much dark energy, anger, fear and hate. I don’t know if it is mirror neurons in the brain, but we seem to instinctively react in similar ways to such attacks unless or until we pause and think “Is this who and how I want to be? Are these the values I want to be living?”

To simplify it—while for the moment putting aside corporate and foreign exploitation of both sides—Liberals (including me) and the Left are appalled at the hate, violence and blame against those who are different and vulnerable. The Trump campaign, rather than “Making America Great Again,” was actually “Making America Hate Again.” Truth and Love seemed to be ignored. And half the country’s voters supported it, whether actually endorsing these values or so angry at the status quo they didn’t care.

Again keeping this simple, many on the Right were tired of having their feelings, view points and interests marginalized. They saw Clinton as untrustworthy, representing Government over-reach, and putting ‘special interest groups’ (read women and minorities) ahead of their needs. “Liberals” were taking away their jobs and country and giving it to the Others. The phrase “bucket of deplorables” codified their sense of rejection whether they were economically deprived or secure.

Years ago I heard the following, useful saying: “The trouble with wrestling with a pig is that, while you both get dirty, the pig enjoys it.” The Obamas’ have been quoted saying, “When they go low, we go high.” The only way we cannot “get dirty” is to follow this advice. We are all humans and, in in the USA, all Americans. If any of us is harmed or prevented from living their potential, we are all less for it.

The election is over. It is my intention to continue to work toward the type of country and world I know we can co-create. It is one where no one is left behind even though each of us is on a separate journey. I will continue to reject and call out degrading and abusive language and behaviors regardless of their source. The Left has as much group think as the Right. We must not let the exploiters, whether corporate, ‘religious’ or other ideological, continue to turn us against one another for their own, short-term gain. We can and must rise to this or we all lose.

Posted in Consciousness, Love, Politics, Religion, Respect, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marinating in Metaphysics

Marinating in metaphysics describes how I have felt after a summer and fall with overlapping classes in Unity Metaphysics. Don’t misunderstand; I enjoyed the classes. Yet reading, writing and attempting to integrate some of these concepts into my life are the main reasons why I have not published a blog for many months.
I actually started several posts, but none felt right or complete. My focus in blogging is to express what I am learning in life in ordinary language. Being immersed in Unity teachings, I found my writing felt too much like Unity talk.
My studies are a natural extension of my desire to be more conscious, positive, and active in my life. Unity teachings complement what I have learned through Buddhism about being fully present and appreciative of life.
One thing that was missing for me with Buddhism was a way to understand the Presence I have felt over my life. Some call it God. Buddha Nature felt too diffuse. Unity largely focuses on the Divine as an internal presence, our Higher Self or Christ Consciousness. There is a deconstruction of God as this external, bigger than life Being. While closer to what I experience, I still wonder if there is a part missing when we only focus on within. Within and without are at heart one; no separation.
Meanwhile, we continue to live in a culture—or is it cultures—where criticism seems much more easily expressed than praise, and where truth, compassion and community are often neglected. Unity provides some fresh air, helping me to see and acknowledge what goes right. I am learning better how to seek and recognize the good in people and situations without being blind to the suffering and apparent limitations that exists.
Unity’s first principle is that God exists and is good. The second is that we are made in the image of God—from the Bible of course. It naturally flows from this that each of us are also good at core—not originally flawed nor even neutral. This does not mean that whatever we do or however we act is good. But it provides a hopeful perspective to deal with those not-so-nice stuff and behaviors. Recognizing that the ‘enemy’ or opposition is also human, encourages working to find common ground rather than simply trying to win. Racist and misogynist generalizations as well as “baskets of deplorables” may seem at first the easy and even truthful responses. Yet they damage the ability to have a civil society, instead fueling a world based more on fear and hate rather than love and compassion.

New learning takes time and effort to incorporate in life. Cut me off in traffic, do some nasty blame game on me or loved ones, and my learned defenses rise quickly. Growing up in New York, I learned to ‘sharpen my tongue.’ Yet the more I choose not to act or react defensively, not to be run by my fight or flight instincts, the more I can live my principles. I feel empowered and begin to see the truth that, “You Can’t Ruin My Day.”* For you see feeling and expressing compassion for the Other when they are behaving badly, whether or not it encourages them to act more humanely, frees me to be who I want to be.

* You Can’t Ruin My Day is a plug for my husband Allen Klein’s new book, which explores ways to not let external events and people ruin your day. You can buy it on Amazon and elsewhere or order it at his web site http://www.allenklein.com/ruin_day.htm.

Posted in Being Present, Buddhism, Compassion, Consciousness, God, Learning, Spirituality, suffering, Truth, Uncategorized, Unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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