Saturday, May 30, 2015

Become One

We try to explain spirit with words. Language is too limited. As hard as we try, words can only capture a tiny fraction of the essence of it. As much as I think about it, try to understand it, try to write about it, most often I land on words that aren't explaining it well.
Spirit is energy that is experienced through action. How do we explain action, experience and energy? How can action, experience and energy be universally understood and shared?
When hot air balloons and steam engines were first introduced, people were amazed. How could something unseen create energy - cause a specific action? It was mystical and magical. Wizardry!
When electricity was first introduced, it made no sense to even the most educated. There were no mechanical parts transferring the energy. We cannot see it running along the wire. Most of us today cannot explain how it works. We just know it does (most of the time).
We understand that electricity is generated at a source - somewhere. We also understand that a circuit can only carry so much. Overload it and it shuts off. We're accustomed to consuming energy.
Many spiritual teachings focus on this type of model. All energy is generated from one source - god - and we are expected to worship it, read about it, quote about it, pray to it and draw everything from it.
We're consumers. We have no power, and are seen as repulsive unless covered by the blood of someone else. A blood thirsty source of power is a very odd belief.
Believing that we can and should endlessly consume energy from that source seems equally odd. We can see how that belief system is playing out in the world as resources are depleted in many places and hoarded in others. People can't get filled up. After worshiping more, reading more, quoting more and praying more - there is still not enough flowing in so it must be because other people aren't worshiping enough or worshiping right or reading enough or quoting enough or praying right.
Is it possible that the source isn't blood thirsty, isn't repulsed by us and doesn't expect us to be consumers? Every day, all around us are examples of creation. Creation does not happen in isolation. We are all part of it. We can stifle it or we can contribute to it. We are not separate from it. We are part of the source. We bless the source by contributing to it or curse the source by devouring it. No amount of worshiping, reading, quoting, or praying changes that. Are you creating or are you depleting? That's the question! You cannot worship, read, quote or pray your way out of answering that question. Are you creating or destroying?
The most mystical, magical source of all is creation - the gift of creation - the gift to create. That is the spirit path. Creation is an action - an experience - an energy. Creation is part of all experience and all energy. Your belief system - your spirit - your spirituality and how you practice it - either contributes to creation or stifles it. Your belief system - your spirit - your spirituality and how you practice it-  either encourages others to create or stifles them. The only way you know is to focus on the outcomes of your actions. The only way to understand outcomes is to become mindful of each and every part of creation from the perspective of the other. Humility. Be humble enough to accept that others see things you cannot. Open your spirit to see.
Picture yourself as a solar panel. The sun provides an abundance of energy that you can collect. Be efficient with that energy. Don't stay off the grid. Share the surplus and share all that you have been able to create from the abundant energy. You have the power to do more. Do more. Share more. That's how you worship the source. Become part of the source. Become one with the source. We are called to become one.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Follow your passion

If you feel a passion for something, don't let anyone or anything stop you. In fourth grade, I wanted to learn to play the violin - and actually any stringed instrument would have suited - but what was offered was the violin. The music teacher had a test in which I performed below expectation. In fact, he insisted I had no natural musical ability. I was having none of that and insisted that I was going to learn to play the violin (with the help of my father). After a year of violin lessons, my music teacher insisted I switch to the cello. I loved the cello! And he was likely grateful.
At the end of the sixth grade, much to my dismay, they ended the orchestra program and there was no path for me and my cello. Another music teacher accepted me as a guitar student for the summer. Then in seventh and eighth grade, I sang in the choir and loved it. So, entering 9th grade, I auditioned for the senior high school choir and was not accepted. I was crushed.
Meanwhile, my parents had discovered a guitar teacher in town who was a lovely man. Every week for .50 I took lessons and spent many hours in my room playing and singing songs. In 10th grade I auditioned again for the high school choir now under a new director. He not only accepted me for the concert choir but also for the madrigal group. Under his wonderful direction, I learned to sing.
Now some 40 years later, I am still singing and still playing my guitar. My first music teacher was right. I don't claim any natural ability. Music is somewhat mysterious to me. I am in awe of those who seem to understand it and perform it with ease. But I love it. I have always loved it. Most of all I love sharing music and the belief that if you desire to play and sing - you should and you can.
My first music teacher would never have imagined that I would someday make simple little stringed instruments and travel where ever they lead me in hopes of sharing a passion for music. It is my greatest joy. If I would have believed him and that first choir director, I would not be sharing that great joy now.
Whatever your passion, stick with it. Do it for yourself. If it brings you joy, you will have opportunity to share it one day. Most of all, give yourself that gift. Stick with it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On the scale of life.....

Life can be tough. There are so many things that happen in our lives that are completely out of our control. It can become overwhelming. If you've followed my writings, I've told about my 1-10 scale for problems - 10 is death. Odd, it suddenly hit me that 10 should actually be MY death. So I have never faced a number 10 yet. I was close once, but I guess that is a 9. If that was a 9, everything else in my life has been below that.
That leaves number 8. What was an 8 in my life? Would that be the loss of those I loved most dearly or would it be the day I cooked the last food - quite literally a pound of hamburger, a jar of sauce, and macaroni noodles - in my cupboard and shared it with expectant guests that I knew had plenty in their cupboard at home and who totally dismissed my telling them it was the last food I had in the house? Perhaps it is their oblivious dismissal of my need that looms so large. Perhaps it is the memory of standing in line at the food pantry days later that looms so large. True hunger is a painful memory. But hunger for love is even more painful and I have known that often and very early in my life. Ok - loss of someone - a love is about 8.9. Eight is basic survival - food being one of those.
Number 7 would be the feeling of lost direction. Those would be the times something had ended and another has not yet begun. These are the times I wasn't quite lost but wasn't quite found. What had ended had to end but what was supposed to begin had not begun and I did not yet know what it would be. Those "tweener" times are hard. I recall the end of college coming and a professor asking seniors in the class how they were feeling. She came to me. "Panic", I said, which seemed to surprise her a great deal because she knew me as active and confident. I did not feel prepared and had no specific place to go next. Of course, a few months later I was on my way, but those "tweener" moments can create a sense of panic.
Number 6 is making a change you have chosen and going on faith. Leaping from the known into the unknown is really scary - even with great expectation and the belief that you have made the right choice. Leaving a relationship might waver between 6 and 8 at times. Leaving a job for another is similar. It starts at a 6 and can shift down or up as the opening days pass. I recall the first few weeks on a new job where co-workers were not very welcoming and my number rating rose to a sense of death status but I survived.
Number 5 would be making a change you have chosen with a good plan behind it. Stepping from one path to another with a good sense of the lay of the land is right in that middle ground. This is where I want to be most consistently. Life should be exciting enough to keep our attention but stress free enough to keep healthy. Until I hit the 10 area of life, I'm hoping to target a lot more of the 5 area.
Anything under the 5 is just too mundane to write about... like taking out the garbage and doing the laundry.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Heavenly Thought

"In heaven", she asked, "what happens if two people had a personality conflict in life?"
She challenged me to write about this from a spiritual perspective. Interesting question.
Imagine one of those annoying people in your life. If you both wind up in heaven - for eternity - how's that going to work? I've often mused about the shock some people may experience in discovering people they have condemned standing at the Pearly Gate.  Perhaps there is much more going on in the spiritual world than a simple - heaven, earth, hell scenario can possibly explain.
Growing up in a Christian church, I was taught that heaven is perfect. It's a place of peace, filled with pure love and there is no suffering. Looking around here on earth, there are a lot of conflicts and plenty of suffering. There are as many conflicts in churches as any place else. Some churches actually fan the flames of conflict and cause suffering. The same spirit we carry around here on earth is going to move on to the next place. Will our spirit instantaneously have some miraculous change when we die? Will we suddenly see the full truth of love and peace that we can not fully see on earth?
The whole thing is a bit perplexing. If there is a miraculous switch that can suddenly provide our spirit with full understanding of love and peace - end suffering - why would we have to die to get it?
On earth we are given many opportunities to learn to love, create a peaceful life around us, and end suffering for ourselves and others. Some people are very good at it. They face all the same challenges the rest of us do, but their lives are filled with love, peace and they don't draw in senseless suffering. They are the spirit filled people. They focus their efforts on positive things and creating positive outcomes. Their prayers are their actions. Their beliefs are expressed, not in words, but in deeds consistently pursued in the knowledge that god is everywhere in everyone. They know heaven is not a destination, it is an action. Heaven is love and peace and the end of suffering. When we understand that, we will arrive in heaven. Our spirits will not rest until they arrive there. And when we arrive there, personality conflicts will be over.
It's nice to think a sudden switch flips and boom - we are in heaven - all is perfect. There's probably a little more to it. I do believe our spirits will be provided every opportunity to learn and grow. Just as it is here, it's up to us to learn it. From a spiritual perspective, it's probably a good thing to get over personality conflicts now. It's a heavenly thought.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Fabric of our Society.

Most of us have had a time when we took out our frustrations on the wrong person. Maybe it was a bad day at work and we came home, someone said something, and we over reacted. Or perhaps it was reaction to a difficult boss - day after day we fail to react to perceived insults - then one day we explode and do or say something that is not going to do us any good.
On the receiving end of such outbursts, it seems the person has lost their minds. The thing they exploded about was not worthy of the reaction - over reaction. Take time to get to the bottom of the problem, a lot of other hurt comes to light. It doesn't excuse the over reaction but it helps to actually try to resolve issues that can lead to over reaction next time. If we fail to discover the deeper issues, and react only to the outburst, there continues to be a ticking time bomb.
Why are we seeing increased clashes between police and citizens - especially in cities? Why are these clashes boiling up into violence and destruction?
I believe the root of the problem is economic. It's aimed at police because they are the front line. They are the government representatives that are most encountered in communities. While they are trained to deal with difficult people and difficult situations, imagine how it must feel to be the recipient of anger day after day. Most police officers enter their careers with the very best and most noble intentions. They want to make a difference and help create a safer community. They know they are putting their lives on the line as they strive to serve the community. Imagine how they must feel to watch those communities get worse instead of better. On top of that, there is little thanks and little respect. Add in shrinking budgets or lack of expanding budgets to meet increased needs, less money for positive community programs conducted by police, less money for training - and the officers on the street are going to feel increasing overwhelmed. They are human. We expect them to be superhuman. Most of the time they are. But we need to listen to them and understand the challenges they are facing. We need to help them solve problems. If we don't, we are putting them in harm's way. The best and the brightest will loose hope. The one's who are not so skilled will loose their ethics.
Historically impoverished neighborhoods have the greatest crime rates in nearly every category - vandalism, burglary, domestic violence, assault, murder.... Desperate people do desperate things. Anyone who is continually knocked down, no matter how hard they try, will grow angry and loose hope. And they will act out in irrational, even destructive, ways. Education budgets have been squeezed. Community programs are no longer funded. The cost of living goes up while salaries go down. Many of our government officials talk about poor people as though they are vampires sucking the life out of our society when, in reality, it's Wall Street mentality and lack of government intervention that is sucking the life out of our society.
We have to get to the root causes of poverty if we want to have a stronger society. Growing poverty weakens the fabric of our entire nation. We will continue to see outrageous results - riots, looting, killing and violence if we don't take poverty seriously and work together to develop solutions.