Tag Archives: emotional growth

Urgency

There are days I just can’t even. I’ve had a list of things – important things! – on my desk for two days that I need to get to before tomorrow night. I only just started them this afternoon. Nothing that took the place of doing my list was unimportant. A call to the Emergency Room, emails, calls, requests for prayer and counseling – all important. Even this blog is important and it still takes a back seat to the other more immediate priorities.

I know full well that one must prioritize and then be hardnosed about sticking to real priorities. I could stand a bit more discipline in that area. At the same time, people are more important than writing reports or even this blog. I value people and helping them to the best of my ability. I’d say it’s one of my primary values, so the list will sit until I get to it. Yes, I know all of this. And yet, that list keeps sitting there, looking at me, saying these things must be done.

I don’t think I’m alone in needing to prioritize or let lists just sit there being mad at me. I don’t think that putting people over writing is wrong, not in my case (your mileage may vary). I am here to remind you and myself that everything that actually needs to get done eventually gets done. Spirit can take a large chunk of this list (and the second mental list that I never write down) and handle it all for me. I have the ultimate Divine Honey-do list here. So, help me out folks. How do you shush the list of urgent stuff in order to stay focused on what’s really important according to your values? How do you remember what your real values are in the face of others who want something else from you?

Genius Level

In the book The Big Leap, there is a concept called the Level of Genius. It’s actually one of four levels and the first two don’t matter as much for our purposes here. The third is Excellence and the fourth is Genius. And they can mess me up sometimes.

The level of Excellence is all the stuff you’re good at. You might be really good at it. I was an excellent administrative clerk back in the day. The lawyers loved me because I got things done for them. I got a steady paycheck and had health insurance that was really awesome. When I said I was going into full time ministry, my mom asked why I couldn’t stay where I was and do ministry on the weekends. That’s the problem with the gap between Excellence and Genius. Often, no one wants us to make that leap.

My Genius, I thought, was in speaking and inspiring folks. It might be in teaching and counseling too. I made the leap and did just fine. Unlike most, I didn’t have to take a pay cut and I have health insurance (not as great, but still health insurance). I love my work. It’s grown me. I’ve had to face fears, make big public mistakes and grow from them and let Spirit carry me when I had no idea what I was doing or even why I was doing it.

I have recently discovered another issue I have with the Level of Genius. Over time, it becomes more specific. At least, that’s my theory. I’ve discovered that there are aspects of ministry I’m good at, but aren’t as challenging as they used to be. I find other areas of ministry that are about an inch beyond my comfort zone and I’ve had to face the idea that perhaps my Level of Genius is out there on my growing edge. I know rationally that I’ve survived growth before. I know in my heart that I’ll always be carried by Spirit to a space beyond where I could go on my own steam. I’m not quite ready to make another Big Leap, but it’s coming up. I can see the cliff from here.

So if you see me muttering to myself, adjusting my cape and looking a little green around the gills, you know what’s up. Catch you on the other side!

So that was Christmas

Today we broke down the Christmas tree and put everything back for another year. It took an hour and a half, much less time that it took to decorate. There’s no creativity in taking decorations down, unless you count fitting the tree back in the box. It’s a little sad and a bit of relief at the same time. It’s a relief because the holidays are such a busy time of year and I tend to be intensely conscious of the Christ in that time. And that’s why it’s sad, too.

As I put away all the decorations, the temptation is to go back to business as usual. All those lovely ideas about peace on earth and the light overcoming the darkness get tucked between the pages of my schedule book. The same meetings that crowded my schedule in 2017 crowd it in 2018. For some reason, this is season for transitions, so there are a lot of folks passing, some folks making major changes in jobs or homes, and of course, lots of people wanting help raising their consciousness. This is when gyms are the busiest, whether they are physical or spiritual gyms.

This is when I remember one of my favorite Christmas poems, by Howard Thurman.

Talking turkey

Every year, I celebrate Thanksgiving by hosting a potluck at our Center. We’ve had as many as 60 people, although the average is closer to 45. I buy ham and turkey and everyone brings their favorite food. This way everyone gets their favorites, made the “right” way, and we all get to hang out in a party atmosphere for the day. I’ve learned a few things along the way. First of all, I won’t try to do all the cooking myself. I do one turkey and one ham. The rest goes home with someone to be cooked and they get the bones for soup. I don’t try to do the cooking at home. The Center kitchen has two ovens and if I cook stuff there, the building smells yummy. I’ve learned that the following day is a great time to make “leftovers”, which really means our family Thanksgiving foods without any stress over presentation.

I used to think I had to do it all myself. I used to think it had to look a certain way. One of the greatest benefits of growing up is that I realized that I get to define what’s right for me and I’m not responsible for meeting other people’s expectations. What is true for the holiday is true for spirituality. I don’t need to do everything the way my mother or grandmothers did it. I don’t care about presentation for the turkey and I don’t need my spiritual practice to meet anyone else’s approval. It’s worth getting up a little early to do it my way and the end result is that I get fed and I’m happy. Sometimes, letting go of doing it “the right way” is what allows for doing it the most effective way.

Going to the well

I was rereading a part of the Book of John this morning about when Jesus, having been walking all day, sits by the edge of a well and asks a woman for some water. Now, the woman is a Samaritan and they don’t generally interact with Jews. Add to that that in those days, women didn’t just chat with men casually. Like, ever. So when Jesus tells her to go get her husband, and she admits she has no husband, he tells her, “You’re right. You’ve had five husbands and the one you have now isn’t yours.”

Now, I heard this story originally as a folk song by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song makes it sound like the woman is, to put it lightly, loose. There’s a bit of slut-shaming in the song. As I read the story now, it occurs to me that a woman can have five husbands if she outlives four. In those days, a woman’s worth was in her marital status and her ability to have children. What if the only reason she’s around is because she didn’t die in childbirth? What if some of those husbands divorced her thinking she was barren? The story doesn’t really say why she’s been married so many times. However, if she lost all those husbands through no fault of her own, even if her society told her it was her fault, then our Samaritan sister has been through some tough times. If she’s living with a husband that isn’t hers (maybe it’s her brother or her father) then she’s probably a second-class citizen in her own home. She has no social standing.

And she is willing to see the possibility that this strange man, who she probably shouldn’t be talking to, might be on to something. Maybe he sounds arrogant to her. Maybe he looks ridiculous (remember he’s just a stranger who’s been walking in the desert all day). I can relate to her. I’ve been to lots of retreats and workshops that promised me “living water” in the form of five simple principles or one great secret or a dozen rules. I have all the books. I’ve done lots of hours of studying. Heck, I have two master’s degrees and the student loans to prove it. I look at the time and money and wonder what the heck I was thinking! I still feel, sometimes, like that unwanted, unloved Samaritan who is just trying to find her place in the world.

If your Buddha-nature spoke up right now and promised you living water, promised you peace and joy, would you have the strength to try one more time? Would you be willing to try someone who seems like an unlikely guru? I went to lots of professionals and certificated teachers before I found the ones who told me my teacher is my own heart. Trusting that unlikely teacher has made all the difference.

Hold my hand

Recently, I challenged myself to play the guitar for a Sunday service. Understand, I haven’t done that since about fourth grade. Think about that. It’s been decades, although I won’t say how many. I remembered how to do the three simple chords, no problem. I was able to work hard enough over the course of the week to somewhat create calluses so that I can play the chords on the metal strings (for those of you who don’t know – ouch!!!). I could sing the song without a problem. I had the words in front of me in case I lost it and it’s not like it’s not a song I sing to myself all the time, by one of my favorite artists, Celia (check out www.celiaonline.com) Folks gave me pretty good feedback, so it couldn’t have been too terrible. It wasn’t a virtuoso performance by any means, but no one walked out and there were few actual groans.

So what was the point of this somewhat amateurish performance? Besides trying to impress my congregation with my miraculous ability? Well, that’s a longer story. Ever since I was a kid, I refused to do things in public if I wasn’t good at them. I never played sports. I never did much of anything. Well, theater stuff, but I was good at that. When I sang, I’d go hide and sing where no one could see me. Yes, I see the problem with that – it didn’t occur to me until years later that folks could definitely hear me, and seeing me was not the issue.

Yesterday I got up and played the guitar even though I didn’t feel ready. I had adrenaline zipping through me at a prodigious rate. It’s been a long time since I had stage fright, but there you go. Now, it wasn’t enough to just do one song on a Sunday. I chose Easter Sunday. I was doing one of the big talks of the year and I asked to do the music. Yes, I asked. Theoretically, our music director could have said no. If I was really bad, I’d trust him to say no and save me the embarrassment. The whole point was to challenge my belief in perfection and do something I didn’t expect to just carry off effortlessly.

The good part is I could fake strumming when I could tell my fingers were playing the wrong chord.   I think we managed to turn the microphone on my guitar waaaay down. And I had the sense to do this in front of a crowd that is loving and forgiving and knows me anyway. What surprised me was that my ego was so involved in remaining calm and spiritual during this growth experience. It bothered me that there was so much adrenaline running through me. It bothered me that they were taking so long to figure out the microphones. It bothered me that I felt I’d let the sermon preparation slide a bit in order to get the music ready. I was not able to float through the whole thing on a cloud of serenity.

In meditation that morning, I saw a child who was doing something for the first time. She was scared, but clinging to a trusted adult’s hand. The whole experience was one of fun and fear at the same time. This is how I think maybe it’s supposed to be. As children we are supposed to have a trusted adult teach us how to feel fear and do it anyway to find out if the fear changes to fun. I’ve decided that is part of my Higher Power’s job description now. If I’m going to be spiritual and live on my growing edge, then God/Goddess/The Divine has to hold my hand.

That way, if I fall flat on my butt, at least I know someone will help me up. And laugh with me afterwards too.

Immortality

Tonight I’m teaching a class whose theme is Immortality. We’re going to be talking about life after death, what it might be like to live without a human body and what we teach about all that. Mostly it ends up being a discussion of the students’ experience with near death experiences, ghosts and other interesting occurrences. The thing is, our teaching is pretty simple. We don’t claim to know. We each individually have our pet theories, but the official teaching is that we can’t really know.

Here’s my official teaching. It’s more interesting to me to know if there can be a healthy, prosperous, fulfilling life BEFORE death. My focus is on right now. Am I doing everything I can to live large before I leave or am I just waiting for whatever comes next?

When I was in Practitioner training, we had to do an exercise in which we wrote our own eulogies and planned our memorial services. Mine was a big party with balloons and music and fun. I said I had died at the age of 83. I believe it was a happy death, and not a particularly difficult one. I had time to say goodbye to folks, make sure my affairs were in order and then just leave gracefully. This exercise is supposed to be about living more fully in this life because we are reminded we won’t be here forever.

I’ve been pretty up front about managing my depressive disorder. The effect this exercise had on me was to make me calculate how much longer I had to be here and when I could leave. It was more like counting down a prison sentence (a life sentence, if I want to be facetious). I’m not afraid of death; like many of us, I tend to have more anxiety around life. Realizing that I believe life to be eternal was, at one point, a very painful truth.

So now I’m taking the next step. At this juncture in my life, I still firmly believe that life is eternal and we get to keep the memory of whoever we were on earth. That’s no longer bad news. I also believe that we get to learn more about whom we have been in other lives and who we are between lives, which sounds pretty cool to me. The homework (as it were) is to make sure I don’t waste the time I have here. Am I coming out from behind my Netflix queue in order to engage with real people? Am I being of service to the folks I meet in the grocery store and at work, or do I just post something on my Facebook letting people know how I feel about the latest scandal? Or kittens, for that matter? (I’m pro-kittens, for the record).

This culture makes it so easy to live from a step back. We make it easy to live by proxy through our electronics. It takes effort to remain present in the here and now, and I believe it’s entirely worth it. As fascinating as I find near death experiences (nope, never had one) I don’t want to have a near life experience while I’m here. If for no other reason, I want actual people to show up for my memorial service and have something to say other than what my favorite TV show was.

Looking for Wisdom

I have begun a practice of reading in bed before I get up (well, getting back in bed after starting the coffee). Right now I’m all about Emma Curtis Hopkins, possibly because I finished a class recently that opened my eyes to her awesome writings. At the best of times, her writing can require a dictionary. The wording is outdated and complex. Her writing also references a lot of knowledge I don’t have about Hinduism, Hebrew and Latin references, mythology and ancient Greek philosophy. And all of that is before I even get to her encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible.
Here’s what I’m learning – it’s not the words or the references I need to notice. It’s those glimmering bits of wisdom that shine just for me. When Emma tells me “look up” or that “Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path”, what I get out of it is a reminder that by focusing on the Spirit Within Me, all my so-called problems melt away. She reminds me that asthma is not the boss of me –my physical lungs heal when I rely on a power greater than myself and if that seems pie-in-the-sky, well, it’s not. She lists over and over the examples throughout history of when allowing Spirit to lead not only worked, it worked miracles.
It’s jarring to go from that kind of consciousness to needing to get on with my day. What would Emma say about Facebook? What would she say about the minutia of ministry – writing the reports, noting the attendance numbers, making sure the Christmas decorations are put away and ready for next year? What would she say about keeping up with email and visits? Not much probably. I think she’d look at all that and remind me – Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path. Spirit isn’t tied to time or limited by a data plan.
These things that worked for the prophets of Israel also worked for yogis and the Brahmans. Focusing on the Divine Self worked for Druids in what became Ireland and the United Kingdom. It worked for the priests of Huitzilopochtli in the Aztec Empire and the seekers of the three-faced Goddess Hecate. It doesn’t matter what the details of the story are – Spirit is timeless, ageless and without limit. So…. With a nod to Emma….
Dude – facing Thee, It’s all Good!

Working with the Law

Today is my 47th birthday. And, because I’m a responsible adult with a full time job and mortgage payments, and thus in control of my own destiny, we had chocolate cake and coffee for breakfast. That’s probably the best part of being an adult. You get to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.

Of course, there’s this guy whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow that also talked about the joy of being in charge of your own life. Ernest Holmes, about 2000 years later, explained to us how it all works by talking about the Law of Cause and Effect. And he was right in saying that we are the Law’s slave until we understand it and then it becomes our servant.

So, for instance, I could have chocolate cake for breakfast (two pieces). I get to make that decision. It doesn’t excuse me from the consequences, either on the scale or the sudden need for salad for lunch. I can try to twist the Law, but there it is. I even split hairs with it – like the time I remembered that mom taught that if there was lots of color on your dinner plate, it was probably a healthy meal. I poured bowl of M&M’s, then called her to tell her what I was eating. Followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit, and so ended up with an upset stomach.

Knowing how the Law works helps us to live happier lives. We give from our joy, in part because we know the Law will return that joy a hundred-fold. Of course, it’s also a lot of fun. We do good for others in order to create the world that works for everyone and then we get to live in that world. That’s how it works – always and in all ways. We live in the world we create, according to the Law, whether we like it or not. There’s something reassuring about that. No matter how long it takes, my positive thoughts and choice to believe in the ultimate goodness of the human soul MUST return to me. I must experience the outpicturing of that thought/belief.

So here’s my early Christmas wish for you – may you be pleasantly surprised this year by the inherent goodness of your fellow beings on this earth. May you let that happy surprise shape your thinking about the whole world. And may you, at some point, gift yourself with birthday cake for breakfast, just because it’s fun and you can.

Fake news

There’s been a debate lately about how and if Facebook should screen the news that gets shared on that site. There’s a lot of fake news – there are actually people who make their entire living making up news and sharing it on Facebook. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, says only 1% of the information on Facebook is fake news, but since a quarter of the world’s population is part of this site, that might still be a problem.

What an awesome metaphor for our consciousness! How many fake news sites are running through your head at any given time? Who’s making money by advertising on those sites? Is there a site dedicated to why your body is not the right shape, size, color or gender? Is it overflowing with ads that tell you how to “fix” yourself?

What about a site that tells you about your talents and skills? Are there articles that say your primary worth is what you do? Or maybe there’s not much you can do that is worthy of sharing, so you should probably just stay home. These sites might have lots of ads for classes or self-help books. They might have commentary from the authority figures of your childhood explaining WHY you never did learn to be useful or what would happen if you stopped doing that thing everyone expects you to do.

It’s worth looking into what scrolls through the feed in your mind. It’s what we do in this philosophy. Each of us probably has some input from someone we should mentally block or even unfriend. The process we go through in Science of Mind is akin to fact checking the news sites that pop up. There is a divine snopes.com that we access through prayer and meditation. There is a way to let our conscious mind comment on different articles, deciding whether they are just inflammatory or if they hold real, important information.

We all have this power. In the Divine sense, we can’t unsubscribe to Facebook – there’s a consciousness that runs through all of us and never stops. It is running in the back of your head right now. It’s also running in your heart and in your physical body. Paying attention to what you’re paying attention to is a great spiritual practice. So, what news sites do you need to block from your consciousness? Are you willing to unfriend the really toxic ones? And just as important – are you willing to read the in-depth articles that might teach you about a world you didn’t know existed?